Navigation Links
Are humans hardwired for fairness?

Is fairness simply a ruse, something we adopt only when we secretly see an advantage in it for ourselves" Many psychologists have in recent years moved away from this purely utilitarian view, dismissing it as too simplistic. Recent advances in both cognitive science and neuroscience now allow psychologists to approach this question in some different ways, and they are getting some intriguing results.

UCLA psychologist Golnaz Tabibnia, and colleagues Ajay Satpute and Matthew Lieberman, used a psychological test called the ultimatum game" to explore fairness and self-interest in the laboratory. In this particular version of the test, Person A has a pot of money, say $23, which they can divide in any way they want with Person B. All Person B can do is look at the offer and accept or reject it; there is no negotiation. If Person B rejects the offer, neither of them gets any money.

Whatever Person A offers to Person B is an unearned windfall, even if its a miserly $5 out of $23, so a strict utilitarian would take the money and run. But thats not exactly what happens in the laboratory. The UCLA scientists ran the experiment so sometimes $5 was stingy and other times fair, say $5 out of a total stake of $10. The idea was to make sure the subjects were responding to the fairness of the offer, not to the amount of the windfall. When they did this, and asked the subjects to rate themselves on scales of happiness and contempt, they had some interesting findings: Even when they stood to gain exactly the same dollar amount of free money, the subjects were much happier with the fair offers and much more disdainful of deals that were lopsided and self-centered.

The psychologists wanted to know if there is something inherently rewarding about being treated decently. So, they scanned several parts of the participants brains while they were in the act of weighing both fair and miserly offers. Consistent with previous results, the researchers found that a region previously associated with negative emotions such as moral disgust (the anterior insula) was activated during unfair treatment. However, interestingly, they also found that regions associated with reward (including the ventral striatum) were activated during fair treatment even though there was no additional money to be gained.

As reported in the April issue of the journal Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the brain finds self-serving behavior emotionally unpleasant, but a different bundle of neurons also finds genuine fairness uplifting. Whats more, these emotional firings occur in brain structures that are fast and automatic, so it appears that the emotional brain is overruling the more deliberate, rational mind. Faced with a conflict, the brains default position is to demand a fair deal.

Furthermore, when the scientists scanned the brains of those who were swallowing their pride for the sake of cash, the brain showed a distinctive pattern of neuronal activity. It appears that the unconscious mind can temporarily damp down the brains contempt response, in effect allowing the rational, utilitarian brain to rule, at least momentarily.


Contact: Catherine West
Association for Psychological Science

Related biology news :

1. Gene regulation, not just genes, is what sets humans apart
2. Humans fostering forest-destroying disease
3. SRMs track fire retardants in humans and environment
4. Influence of sex and handedness on brain is similar in capuchin monkeys and humans
5. Gene regulation in humans is closer than expected to simple organisms
6. Role reversal as humans suck life out of leeches
7. Extra gene copies were enough to make early humans mouths water
8. Newfound ancient African megadroughts may have driven the evolution of humans and fishes
9. Humans unknowing midwives for pregnant moose
10. Humans and monkeys share Machiavellian intelligence
11. University of Toronto finds humans and chimps differ at level of gene splicing
Post Your Comments:
(Date:4/26/2016)... -- Research and Markets has announced the ...  report to their offering.  , ,     (Logo: ... forecast the global multimodal biometrics market to grow ... 2016-2020.  Multimodal biometrics is being implemented ... healthcare, BFSI, transportation, automotive, and government for controlling ...
(Date:4/14/2016)... , April 14, 2016 ... and Malware Detection, today announced the appointment of ... the new role. Goldwerger,s leadership appointment comes ... the heels of the deployment of its platform at ... behavioral biometric technology, which discerns unique cognitive and physiological ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... BOCA RATON, Florida , March 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... ("LegacyXChange" or the "Company") LegacyXChange "LEGX" and SelectaDNA/CSI Protect ... Synthetic DNA in ink used in a variety of ... preventing theft. Buyers of originally created collectibles from athletes ... authenticity through forensic analysis of the DNA. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample ... the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, has joined STACS DNA as a Field Application Specialist. ... said Jocelyn Tremblay, President and COO of STACS DNA. “In further expanding our capacity ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... BEACH, Calif. , June 23, 2016  Blueprint ... new biological discoveries to the medical community, has closed ... co-founder Matthew Nunez . "We have ... us with the capital we need to meet our ... will essentially provide us the runway to complete validation ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... is exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and will showcase its product’s latest ... ClinCapture will also be presenting a scientific poster on Disrupting Clinical Trials in ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... FRANCISCO , June 22, 2016  Amgen (NASDAQ: ... sponsorship of the QB3@953 life sciences incubator ... human health. The shared laboratory space at QB3@953 was ... overcome a key obstacle for many early stage organizations ... part of the sponsorship, Amgen launched two "Amgen Golden ...
Breaking Biology Technology: