Study revealed why women are more generous than men: they feel more rewarded for it

Human is nothing but a social animal. We need others to survive. However, our generosity, which could help maintaining healthy social relations, is not always the same. A new research from University of Zurich found that females are more rewarded for pro-social behaviour, while males feel a little better being selfish.

When money is concerned, women are more generous than men and act more pro-social. Image credit: Pen Waggener via Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

We have reward centres in our brain that motivate our behaviour. It is a mechanism perfected through long period of evolution, helping us to survive in the environment that we’ve created. Numerous studies have shown that women are more generous with money than men and now scientists wanted so see how and why that is. It turns out, the answer is hiding in the brain.

The striatum region, which is located in the middle of the brain, becomes active every time we’re making decisions. Striatum is what gives us a sense of reward when we make a choice about our own actions. Experiments showed that females feel more rewarded when they are generous as opposed to selfish, while male brain works in a totally opposite way in this regard. Scientists wanted to see into this more and started experimenting with drugs that disrupt the reward system.

Medicine really did make a difference – under influence of these substances women acted more selfish and men – more generous. This means that there are some differences in chemistry in the process of how men and women make decisions regarding generosity and pro-social behaviour. Alexander Soutschek, one of the authors of the study, said: “Empirical studies show that girls are rewarded with praise for prosocial behavior, implying that their reward systems learn to expect a reward for helping behavior instead of selfish behaviour”.

Essentially, this means that scientist don’t think that these differences are evolutionary. One could argue that women must be generous as they naturally are the ones caring after offspring, while males have to be tough and competitive. However, scientists think that the result they observed is more cultural than biological. Women are more rewarded for their social behaviour more and they don’t feel that pressure to be selfish in terms of money. However, to confirm such idea scientists would have to conduct similar studies in different cultures to see if there is any difference in the reward mechanism in the brain.


Source: University of Zurich

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