WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Altruism, one of the most difficult human behaviors to define, can be detected in brain scans, U.S. researchers reported on Sunday.

They found activity in a specific area of the brain could predict altruistic behavior — and people’s own reports of how selfish or giving they are.

“Although understanding the function of this brain region may not necessarily identify what drives people like Mother Theresa, it may give clues to the origins of important social behaviors like altruism,” said Scott Huettel, a neuroscientist at Duke University in North Carolina who led the study.

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One thought on “Are you a giver? Brain scan finds the truth

  1. “Being generous is inborn; being altruistic is a learned perversity. No resemblance—”
    from “The Notebook of Lazarus Long,” which is an section of the novel “Time Enough For Love” by Robert A. Heinlein

    Attempting to fit my quotation in with the posted article, my proposition is that the brain segment being analyzed has more to do with unselfishness than altruism.

    If, for the sake of this response and congruency between the article and my quote, generosity is innate or inborn, a person cannot help it and probably doesn’t think about it. It’s just the way they are. If they are made aware of it through circumstances, that person might have to fight against it in order not to disadvantage themselves.

    Altruistic or altruism, on the other hand, is a learned behavior with an expected outcome. They motives may be quite high and the commitment may come from dedication to something noble or else the expected outcome might be more crass. The difference is that the person retains more choice about it.

    Using the above parameters then, the portion of the brain noted in the article may be more indicative of unselfishness than altruism, less “me” and more “we.”

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