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Thursday, September 1, 2016

A General Benevolence Dimension That Links Neural, Psychological, Economic, and Life-Span Data on Altruistic Tendencies

J. Hubbard; W.T. Harbaugh; S. Srivastava; D. Degras; and U. Mayr
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Aug 11 , 2016


Individual and life span differences in charitable giving are an important economic force, yet the underlying motives are not well understood. In an adult, life span sample, we assessed manifestations of prosocial tendencies across 3 different measurement domains: (a) psychological self-report measures, (b) actual giving choices, and (c) fMRI-derived, neural indicators of "pure altruism." The latter expressed individuals' activity in neural valuation areas when charities received money compared to when oneself received money and thus reflected an altruistic concern for others. Results based both on structural equation modeling and unit-weighted aggregate scores revealed a strong higher-order General Benevolence dimension that accounted for variability across all measurement domains. The fact that the neural measures likely reflect pure altruistic tendencies indicates that General Benevolence is based on a genuine concern for others. Furthermore, General Benevolence exhibited a robust increase across the adult life span, potentially providing an explanation for why older adults typically contribute more to the public good than young adults.

The article is here.