The study shows that women are hardwired to respond to economic decisions more prosocially than men.
Philippe Tobler, an associate professor of neuroeconomics and social neuroscience at the University of Zurich, and his colleagues carried out two studies looking at whether dopamine is linked to different social behaviors in men and women.
In the first study, a group of 56 men and women were randomly allocated to two groups, and were either given a placebo or amisulpride. Amisulpride works by blocking the receptors in the brain that dopamine acts on. Neither the scientists nor participants knew which group was given the pill.
The participants were then presented with a hypothetical situation in which they could either claim money for themselves, or split the money evenly with another person, ranging from someone close to a complete stranger.
The results showed that when taking the placebo, 51% of the time women chose to share the money, while for men the figure was at 40%. But after taking the amisulpride, women were less enthusiastic to share. Women split the money 45% of the time, and men became more prosocial, splitting the cash 44% of the time.
In the second study, the team looked at data from 40 men and women who had undergone brain imaging while undertaking decisions on whether to share money, focusing on the activity of a value-processing region of the brain that relies on dopamine signaling.
The team found that when making prosocial choices, activity in this brain region was stronger for women than men, suggesting a greater dopamine response.
The researchers concluded the two studies support the idea that the “reward system appears to be more sensitive to prosocial rewards in women than in men, providing a neurobiological account for why women often behave more prosocially than men.”
Feature Image via Pixabay and Creative Commons License