The new research based on brain imaging discovered that men are naturally selfish and women have a tendency for an unconscious altruistic (pro-social) response.
Women have a different brain reaction than men, which drives them to help others. The differences are obvious when the activity in the brain is recorded. However, the researchers are not convinced whether the response is evolution-driven or culturally imprinted, since girls are encouraged to be helpful, while boys usually get rewards for being tough.
Women enjoy being altruistic, while men get a kick from being selfish
Researchers discovered that the women’s part of brain displayed a greater response with regard to sharing money, while the same structure revealed more activity in men when they kept the money for themselves.
A series of experiments was designed to test reactions of males and females in a situation that was either socially-oriented or self-oriented.
56 female and male participants had to select between keeping some cash for themselves or sharing it with others. Then researchers viewed brain imaging scans to see which zones were activated during the behaviour.
- The reward centres in men got activated when they were allowed to keep the money.
- Women’s enjoyment came when they shared with others. Besides, the ladies were more generous.
“Women tend to have more subjective value on any prosocial behaviour while men find some selfish behaviour to be more valuable,” the associate professor of neuroeconomics of University of Zurich Philippe Tobler concluded.
The activity in the brain changes in proportion to the given value in social experiences, the study revealed.
Why men are selfish?
Alexander Soutschek, the leading researcher behind the study, believes the results show that women’s and men’s brains “process generosity differently at the pharmacological level”.
Tobler with his colleagues now focused on “dopamine system” to look for answers why men are selfish.
Dopamine plays an important role in the brain’s reward system that is released during a period of pleasure, yet it helps us process values.
This mental capability transpires within the machinery of the brain known as the striatum. The Latin word “stripe”, this striatum is threaded along with fibres, which receive as well as transmit signals from the thalamus, cerebral cortex, and other brain parts.
A placebo was offered before making the participants make decisions. The result indicated that husbands tend to be more selfish than wives.
But after receiving a drug known as amisulpride that interrupted their dopamine systems, ladies became more selfish, while guys acted more generous. (Amisulpride is an antipsychotic usually used in treating symptoms of schizophrenia.)
Depending on genders’ opposing priorities, interrupting the dopamine system had opposing effects: It made women more selfish and men more altruistic.
Culture plays a major role, researchers point out
Academics believe that culturally-determined responses, encoded in the neurological paths, could be the main trigger for certain responses in males and females, connected with either altruism or egoism.
In this view, it would be interesting to see whether the experiments with people of different nations would give the same results.
For instance, we know that Russian women are taught to be supportive since they are little girls. Young girls grow up to believe that their function in life is to support the partner (husband) in his endeavours and that his career pursuits are more valuable than hers, because he will be the provider and breadwinner when she has kids and looks after the youth.
Would Slavic girls from countries of the former Soviet Union be less selfish than their American sisters? An international team of researchers would be able to give an answer to a question like that.