The roots of altruism

Neuroscientists identify brain mechanisms that predict generosity in children

Studies of mental functions, behaviors and the nervous system.

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The roots of altruism

#1  Postby kennyc » Dec 20, 2014 1:17 pm

Neuroscientists identify brain mechanisms that predict generosity in children

University of Chicago developmental neuroscientists have found specific brain markers that predict generosity in children. Those neural markers appear to be linked to both social and moral evaluation processes.

There are many sorts of prosocial behaviors. Although young children are natural helpers, their perspective on sharing resources tends to be selfish. Jean Decety, the Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, and Jason Cowell, a postdoctoral scholar in Decety's Child NeuroSuite lab, wanted to find out how young children's brains evaluate whether to share something with others out of generosity. In this study, generosity was used as a proxy for moral behavior. The paper is published online by Current Biology and will appear in the Jan. 5, 2015 issue.
"We know that generosity in children increases as they get older," said Decety. He added that neuroscientists have not yet examined the mechanisms that guide the increase in generosity. "The results of this study demonstrate that children exhibit both distinct early automatic and later more controlled patterns of neural responses when viewing scenarios showing helping and harmful behaviors. It's that later more controlled neural response that is predictive of generosity."
The study included recording brain waves by EEG and eye tracking of 57 children, ages three to five, while they viewed short animations depicting prosocial and antisocial behaviors of cartoon-like characters helping or hurting each other. Following that testing, the children played a modified version of a scenario called the "dictator game." The children were given ten stickers and were told that the stickers were theirs to keep. They were then asked if they wanted to share any of their stickers with an anonymous child who was to come to the lab later that day.
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http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 103948.htm
Kenny A. Chaffin
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