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sexta-feira, julho 14, 2017

A neural link between generosity and happiness

Soyoung Q. Park, Thorsten Kahnt, Azade Dogan, Sabrina Strang, Ernst Fehr & Philippe N. Tobler

Nature Communications 8, Article number: 15964 (2017)

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Cooperation Human behaviour

Received: 21 October 2016 Accepted: 12 May 2017

Published online: 11 July 2017


Generous behaviour is known to increase happiness, which could thereby motivate generosity. In this study, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging and a public pledge for future generosity to investigate the brain mechanisms that link generous behaviour with increases in happiness. Participants promised to spend money over the next 4 weeks either on others (experimental group) or on themselves (control group). Here, we report that, compared to controls, participants in the experimental group make more generous choices in an independent decision-making task and show stronger increases in self-reported happiness. Generous decisions engage the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) in the experimental more than in the control group and differentially modulate the connectivity between TPJ and ventral striatum. Importantly, striatal activity during generous decisions is directly related to changes in happiness. These results demonstrate that top–down control of striatal activity plays a fundamental role in linking commitment-induced generosity with happiness.


This work was supported by grant 0036/AB16 from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, grants PP00P1_128574, PP00P1_150739, 00014_165884 and CRSII3_141965 from the Swiss National Science Foundation and grants PA-2682/1-1 and INST 392/125-1 (Project C07 from SFB/TRR 134) from the German Research Foundation. We thank Christine Schneider and Michel Wälti for their help with data acquisition, Gabriele Bellucci for methodological support and Tamara Jean Herz for language editing. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of the Neuroscience Center Zurich.

Author information


Department of Psychology I, University of Lübeck, Lübeck 23562, Germany
Soyoung Q. Park & Sabrina Strang

Department of Neurology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA
Thorsten Kahnt

Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research, Department of Economics, University of Zurich, Zurich 8006, Switzerland
Azade Dogan, Ernst Fehr & Philippe N. Tobler


S.Q.P., T.K. and P.N.T. conceived and designed the study. S.Q.P., T.K. and A.D. conducted the experiments and analysed the data. S.Q.P., T.K., S.S., E.F. and P.N.T. wrote the manuscript and S.Q.P., T.K., S.S., E.F. and P.N.T. edited the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Soyoung Q. Park.