July 3, 2022

THE SHINING LIGHTS OF ALTRUISM

 Altruism can be detected with brain scans, claim researchers from Duke University in North Carolina. In an article in Nature Neuroscience, they report that they put 45 college students into a functional magnet resonance imaging scanner, gave them games to play, and told them that they could either keep the cash rewards or give them to charity. The scans lit up differently depending on which option they chose.

Lead researcher Scott Huettel said that "Although understanding the function of this brain region may not necessarily identify what drives people like Mother Theresa, it may give clues to the origins of important social behaviors like altruism." His scans correlated strongly with the students’ own description of how altruistic they were. He acknowledged that it is very difficult to measure altruism, but said that religious explanations were insufficient, as there were many altruists amongst atheists and various animal species as well.