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Money motivates -- especially when your colleague gets less
Date:11/22/2007

The feelings an individual has on receiving his paycheque depend critically on how much his colleague earns. Hard evidence for this comes from an experiment conducted by economists and brain scientists at the University of Bonn. They tested male subjects in pairs, asking them to perform a simple task and promising payment for success. Using magnetic resonance tomographs, the researchers examined the volunteers' brain activity throughout the activities. Participants who got more money than their co-players showed much stronger activation in the brain's "reward centre" than occurred when both players received the same amount. Details of the study are published on Friday, November 23rd, in the renowned academic journal "Science".

The publication of these findings is the first outcome of a new line of research being established at Bonn University. A group of scholars around the epileptologist Professor Dr. Christian Elger and the economist Professor Dr. Armin Falk want to find out just how the mind of "Homo oeconomicus" works. To this end, they are using modern imaging techniques to look into the brains of their volunteers being tested in the lab.

In the experiment now published the participants had to lie down next to each other in parallel brain scanners. They were asked to perform the same task simultaneously. Dots appeared on a screen and they had to estimate the number being displayed. They were then told whether their answer was correct. If they had solved the task correctly, they received a financial reward, which might range from 30 to 120 euros. Each participant also learnt how his partner in the game had performed and how much he would pocket in return.

Throughout this procedure the tomograph monitored the changes in blood circulation in the different regions of the subject's brain. High blood flows indicate that the nerve cells in the respective part of the brain are particularly active. A total of 38 men took part in the expe
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Contact: Armin Falk
armin.falk@uni-bonn.de
49-228-739-240
University of Bonn
Source:Eurekalert

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