Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Empathy and Oxytocin Lead to Greater Generosity

Date:
November 8, 2007
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
What makes people act with kindness to a stranger they never expect to meet again? Why are some people more generous than others? A neuroeconomist has new research connecting oxytocin to trust and generosity Scientists gave doses of oxytocin and a placebo to participants, who were then offered a blinded, one-time decision on how to split a sum of money with a stranger who could accept or reject the split. The results were overwhelming: Those given oxytocin offered 80% more money than those given a placebo.

What makes people act with kindness to a stranger they never expect to meet again? Why are some people more generous than others? Neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak of Claremont Graduate University has new research connecting oxytocin to trust and generosity.

Related Articles


In the research, Zak and his colleagues gave doses of oxytocin and a placebo to participants, who were then offered a blinded, one-time decision on how to split a sum of money with a stranger who could accept or reject the split. The results were overwhelming: Those given oxytocin offered 80% more money than those given a placebo.

According to Zak, this means that although we are inherently altruistic, we are also generous when we feel empathy toward one another. It is empathy that causes us to open up our wallets and give generously to help strangers.

"Oxytocin specifically and powerfully affected generosity using real money when participants had to think about another's feelings," Zak explains. "This result confirms our earlier work showing that oxytocin affects trust, but with a dramatically larger effect for generosity."

In his experiments, Zak distinguishes between generosity and altruism by using tasks that involve one's innate motivation to give to others, and when another's plight must be considered. Oxytocin's effect on generosity is more than three times larger then his work from 2005, which demonstrated that oxytocin increases trust.

Zak's recent paper explains the brain mechanisms responsible for the substantial increase in generosity during the last 50 years. Zak and his colleagues cite annual giving levels up 187% since 1954. In 2005, over 65 million Americans volunteered to help charities. 96% percent of volunteers said that one of their motivations was "feeling compassion toward other people"

In previous studies, Zak has shown a relationship between oxytocin and trust, making a clear case that the ancient hormone causes a shift in brain chemistry that is evolutionarily important--the more we trust one another and cooperate, the more we all benefit together.

This research extends Zak's finding based on oxytocin and trust, which was published in Nature two years ago.

Citation for new paper: Zak PJ, Stanton AA, Ahmadi S (2007) Oxytocin Increases Generosity in Humans. PLoS One 2(11): e1128. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001128

This new paper was co-written by Angela A. Stanton of Claremont Graduate University and Sheila Ahmadi of UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Empathy and Oxytocin Lead to Greater Generosity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071107074321.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2007, November 8). Empathy and Oxytocin Lead to Greater Generosity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071107074321.htm
Public Library of Science. "Empathy and Oxytocin Lead to Greater Generosity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071107074321.htm (accessed March 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins