Research press release


Nature Communications

Neuroscience: Why giving makes you happy



今回、Soyoung Parkたちは、気前の良い行動と幸福感を結びつける脳の機構について調べるため、50人の参加者に金銭消費課題を行わせて、その際の脳の活動を分析した。参加者には、4週間にわたって毎週25スイスフランが与えられることを告げた上で、その半数には、それが本人のために使うための金銭だと説明して、その使い道(例えば本人の食事)を書かせ、残りの半数には、他人のために使うための金銭だと説明して、使い道(例えば友人や配偶者に夕食をおごること)を書かせた。この実験で他人のために金銭を使うことを公約した参加者は、この課題とは独立した別の課題でも気前の良さを示し、主観的幸福感と関連する特定の脳領域の活動が増大した。


People are often generous, even at a cost to themselves, and this could be because of a link between the brain areas activated when one is generous and those involved in happiness, suggests a paper published this week in Nature Communications.

Societies and cultures value generous behaviour, but this behaviour tends to involve investing one’s own resources to benefit another and so is hard to explain using standard economic theory. However, research has suggested that the motive for generous behaviour is the increased happiness with which it is associated.

To investigate the brain mechanisms that link generous behaviour with happiness, Soyoung Park and colleagues analysed brain activity in 50 participants performing a money-spending task. The participants were told that they would receive 25 Swiss Francs each week for four weeks. Half of the participants were told that this money was for themselves, and were asked to write down how they would spend it (for example, on a meal for themselves); the other half of the participants were told that the money was to be spent on somebody else, and were asked to write down how they would spend it (for example, taking a friend or partner out to dinner). The authors found that the participants who had committed to spending their money on others also behaved more generously in an independent task and had more activity in a particular brain area linked to the subjective feeling of happiness.

Taken together, the results of this study elucidate the brain regions that link commitment-induced generosity with happiness, suggesting a potential explanation for the question that defies logic: why be generous if it would be more beneficial to keep those resources for yourself? Now we know: because giving them away activates the brain in a way that makes you feel happier.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms15964

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