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

riment. "We registered enhanced activity in various parts of their brains during the test," explains the Bonn neuroscientist Dr. Bernd Weber. "One area in particular, the ventral striatum, is the region where part of what we call the 'reward system' is located."

The reward system is activated when an individual has an experience he considers worth aspiring to. "In this area we observed an activation when the player completed his task correctly," says Bernd Weber, who heads the NeuroCognition Imaging group at the Life&Brain Institute. By contrast, when the subject got his estimate wrong, activity in his ventral striatum would subside. For us, however, the exciting finding here was the role played by another factor: the performance of the player in the other scanner. Weber's colleague Dr. Klaus Fließbach sums up the outcome, "Activation was at its highest for those players who got the right answer while their co-player got it wrong."

The researchers then took a closer look at those cases in which both players estimated the number of points correctly. If the participants received the same payment there was relatively moderate activation of the reward centre. But if player one was given, say, 120 euros, while his partner received only 60, the activation turned out to be much stronger for player one. For player two, on the other hand, the blood flow into the ventral striatum actually decreased – even though he had performed the task successfully and had been rewarded for his efforts.

Men like competing

"This result clearly contradicts traditional economic theory," explains Bonn-based economist Professor Dr. Armin Falk. "The theory assumes that the only important factor is the absolute size of the reward. The comparison with other people's rewards shouldn't really play any role in economic motivation." It is the first time that this hypothesis has been challenged using such an experimental approach. It does not mean, of course, t
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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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