The charitable brain

What motivates us to donate to charity? It seems that neuroscience might have some of the answers.

Michael Rosen reports on a new study from researchers at Texas Tech University into charitable giving behavior.

Researchers used brain scans to look at what motivates individuals to make a charitable bequest commitment as well as what de-motivates them. This is the first time that Magnetic Resonance Imaging has been used to examine charitable bequest decision making.

The three key findings of the report are:

  • Bequest giving and current giving stimulate different parts of the brain. This suggests that different motivators and de-motivators are at work.
  • Making a charitable bequest decision involves the internal visualization system, specifically those parts of the brain engaged for recalling autobiographical events, including the recent death of a loved one.
  • Charitable bequest decision making engages parts of the brain associated with, what researchers call, “management of death salience.” In other words, and not surprisingly, charitable bequest decision making involves reminders of one’s mortality.

You can read Michael Rosen’s article in full here