Brain Scans Confirm Human Response to Inequality

GivingTracker| In an astonishing piece of new research, researchers have demonstrated that reward centers in the human brain respond more strongly when a poor person receives a financial reward than when a rich person does. Even more unbelievable, the activity pattern is the same in a rich person’s head.

The findings were documented via brain scans, observing activity in the brain’s rewards center — the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) and ventral striatum.

Discussed in the Feb 25 issue of Nature, the researchers worked with 40 volunteers — admittedly a small group. John O’Doherty, professor of psychology at Caltech, summarized the group’s findings:

“As a psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist who works on reward and motivation, I very much view the brain as a device designed to maximize one’s own self interest,” says O’Doherty. “The fact that these basic brain structures appear to be so readily modulated in response to rewards obtained by others highlights the idea that even the basic reward structures in the human brain are not purely self-oriented.” via Science Daily