Altruism is defined as the act of having an unselfish concern for the wellbeing of others. Using imaging studies and theories from behavioral economics, neuroscience and psychology, a group of researchers from the University of Oregon compared the altruistic tendencies in people of various age groups. According to Dr. Ulrich Mayr, the goal of the team was to find out which group of people was more prone to truly generous acts wherein they receive nothing but the joy of knowing they did something good. Their findings may shock seniors and their Rockwall home caregivers.
The trial involved 80 males and females who were anywhere between 18 and 67 years old. The volunteers were chosen based on having similar life or work histories. All participants underwent psychological evaluations to determine certain personality traits. Each individual was given the opportunity to decide whether they wanted to donate an undisclosed amount of money to charity or keep the sum for themselves. Each test subject also submitted to imaging studies, which assessed the reward region of their brains based on their choices.
Imaging studies revealed that the neural reward area of the brain was more active when some of the participants kept the money for themselves. Individuals displaying altruistic tendencies demonstrated a greater degree of brain activity when opting to donate the money. If given the choice, these people also chose to give away a larger amount of money. This group additionally had stronger prosocial personality traits when psychologically evaluated.
In terms of age group, the volunteers over the age of 45 were more likely to experience a higher degree of reward by doing something beneficial to others. A moderate amount of selfless volunteers deemed religion as important, but it didn’t seem to be the primary motivation behind their charitable acts. Financial status also had no significance regarding whether or not the individuals were generous with the money. Considering the age group having the largest number of altruistic people, the researchers theorized that life experiences might play a major role in motivating seniors to have strong altruistic tendencies.
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