Your Brain Loves Paying Taxes As Much As It Loves Cheeseburgers
Can you get as much satisfaction from paying taxes as you can from eating a cheeseburger?
According to a study conducted at the University of Oregon, the answer is yes. The pleasure center of your brain reacts the same way to paying taxes, giving to charity or satisfying your hunger with a tasty treat.
In a study, the results of which were published in the June 15 issue of the journal Science, a three member team made up of a cognitive psychologist and two economists were able to isolate and compare the reaction of the brain to forced taxation as well as charitable contributions, and found that the regions in the brain that fired during those two acts were the same ones that fire when the basic needs for food and pleasure are met.
As stated by Ulrich Mayr, the psychologist of the group, "The surprising element for us was that in a situation in which your money is simply given to others -- where you do not have a free choice-- you still get reward-center activity, I don't think that most economists would have suspected that. It reinforces the idea that there is true altruism -- where it's all about how well the common good is doing. I've heard people claim that they don't mind paying taxes, if it's for a good cause -- and here we showed that you can actually see this going on inside the brain, and even measure it."
Discussing the motivations of "true altruism" which is satisfied by increases in the public good and "warm glow," which is only fulfilled by an individual's own voluntary donations, the researchers shared the following conclusions:
"The study gives economists a novel look inside the brain during taxation," said co-author William T. Harbaugh, a UO professor of economics and member of the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass. "To economists, the surprising thing about this paper is that we actually see people getting rewards as they give up money," he said. "Neural firing in this fundamental, primitive part of the brain is larger when your money goes to a non-profit charity to help other people...On top of that, people experience more brain activation when they give voluntarily -- even though everything here is anonymous. That's a very surprising result -- and, to me, an optimistic one."
However, this latter finding, which offers confirmation to the economic theory of "warm-glow" giving, doesn't necessarily mean that taxes should be lowered and charity relied on more heavily, Harbaugh said. In a voluntary environment, he added, lots of people free-ride and donations fall.
Summary: The Gift of Giving
Posted In: Cognitive Psychology |
Posted by FindCounseling.com Staff on June 26, 2007 at 09:58 AM | Permalink
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