Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Neural Responses Indicate our Willingness to Help

08.10.2010
Witnessing a person from our own group or an outsider suffer pain causes neural responses in two very different regions of the brain. And, the specific region activated reveals whether or not we will help the person in need. Researchers at the University of Zurich studied the brain responses of soccer fans and now have neurobiological evidence for why we are most willing to help members of our own group.

Our reactions to shocking news clips on television demonstrate that human beings can remain remarkably cool in the face of other peoples’ suffering. And yet, we are also ready to sacrifice ourselves for others, even if no tangible reward awaits. Why such a difference? Social psychology has proven that our propensity to help is modulated by social factors.

Little, however, was known about the underlying neural processes and how they are influenced by group affiliation. Now, research in neuroscience at the University of Zurich has documented that the brain regions activated when witnessing people suffer vary according to whether those suffering are perceived as group members. “And most importantly, the differences in neural responses indicate whether the observer will help the suffering person later on,” as neuroscientist Grit Hein confirmed.

Grit Hein, Tania Singer (now director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences) and social psychologist C. Daniel Batson (University of Kansas, USA) measured the neural responses of soccer fans: Test subjects watched either a member of their own group (ingroup) or someone from a rival team (outgroup) be subjected to painful shocks through electrodes attached to the back of their hands. The test subjects could then decide whether or not to help an ingroup or outgroup member by receiving a portion of the pain themselves. Helping had a high cost as it was inherently linked to personal physical pain. Test persons also had the option to simply watch the other person receive the shocks or to distract themselves from the unpleasant scene by watching a soccer video.

The scientific journal Neuron has published the revealing results of the study: Should a person from an ingroup suffer pain, brain regions associated with empathy for others’ pain are activated. A greater degree of activation in these regions correlates with a greater willingness to help. If, however, test subjects saw a member of an outgroup subjected to pain, brain regions motivated by reward were activated. A high degree of reward-related activation corresponds to a negative perception of the person belonging to the rival team, and the willingness to help decreases as brain activation rises.

Measuring neural responses also proves to be a more accurate prediction tool than questionnaires when trying to determine how willing people are to help people outside of their group affiliation. “After all, who is going to admit they’d help a friend in need but let an outsider suffer?” observed Grit Hein.

Grit Hein received the Branco-Weiss Fellowship from the Society in Science (Zurich) for this study and other work.

Reference:
Hein, G., Silani, G., Peuschoff, K., Batson, C. D., & Singer. T. Neural responses to ingroup and outgroup members’ suffering predict individual differences in costly helping. Neuron, doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.09.003
Contact:
Dr. Grit Hein
Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research
University of Zurich
Tel. +41 44 634 3741
E-Mail: ghein@iew.uzh.ch
Dr. Tania Singer
Director
Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Department of Social Neuroscience
Tel. +49 341 9940 2686
E-Mail: singer@cbs.mpg.de

Beat Müller | idw
Further information:
http://www.uzh.ch

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Organ-on-a-chip mimics heart's biomechanical properties
23.02.2017 | Vanderbilt University

nachricht Researchers identify cause of hereditary skeletal muscle disorder
22.02.2017 | Klinikum der Universität München

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA eyes Pineapple Express soaking California

24.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

New gene for atrazine resistance identified in waterhemp

24.02.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

New Mechanisms of Gene Inactivation may prevent Aging and Cancer

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>