Massage therapists are often seen as altruistic, with a desire to help ease others’ discomfort. New research indicates the volume of a small brain region influences one’s predisposition for altruistic behavior.
For the first time, research shows there is a connection between brain anatomy and altruistic behavior.
Researchers from the University of Zurich show that people who behave more altruistically than others have more gray matter at the junction between the parietal and temporal lobe, thus showing for the first time that there is a connection between brain anatomy, brain activity and altruistic behavior, according to a university press release.
To investigate whether differences in altruistic behavior have neurobiological causes, volunteers were to divide money between themselves and an anonymous other person, according to the press release. The participants always had the option of sacrificing a certain portion of the money for the benefit of the other person.
The researchers found major differences in this respect: Some participants were almost never willing to sacrifice money to benefit others while others behaved very altruistically.
Previous studies have shown that a certain region of the brain – the place where the parietal and temporal lobes meet – is linked to the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes in order to understand their thoughts and feelings. according to the press release, and altruism is probably closely related to this ability.
In addition to having a higher proportion of gray matter at the junction between the parietal and temporal lobes, the participants in the study also displayed marked differences in brain activity while they were deciding how to split up the money.
In the case of selfish people, the small brain region behind the ear is already active when the cost of altruistic behavior is very low, according to the press release, while in altruistic people, this brain region only becomes more active when the cost is very high.