Many theories of economic behavior ignore the existence of prosocial motivation in human beings. It is believed that people pursue exclusively selfish interests and are not interested in making decisions that also benefit others. However, neuroscientific research shows that this is not the case .
For example, when interacting with a stranger, it is more profitable for an individual to allocate resources in any way that allows him to earn as much as possible. But acquaintances are more likely to cooperate, even when there is no punishment for selfishness. This is how our desire for cooperation and justice, probably inherent, works .
Selfishness and cooperation
Researchers know that the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is involved in the choice between self-interest and prosocial motivation, but it is not yet entirely clear what exact behavior is triggered by the activation of this area. In some studies, the suppression of activity from the region led to prosocial behavior, while in others it resulted in an active pursuit of selfish interests. In some cases, it had no effect.
To specify the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in such situations, researchers at the University of HSE conducted an experiment using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which suppresses the excitability of the stimulated area of the brain.
A total of 46 participants between the ages of 18 and 27 were divided into two groups. The first group received stimulation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex for five to seven minutes, while the second group received stimulation of the areas of the brain responsible for visual perception. The participants then played two economic games in a row: a dictator game and a generosity game .
The researchers found that suppressing the excitability of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex caused the dictator’s game participants to give more to their partner compared to those whose visual cortex was stimulated. No such effect was seen in the generosity game: participants shared in roughly the same way regardless of the type of stimulation.