Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Happiness is an empty wallet

New Scientist reports: [edited]

Paying taxes feels good, say researchers. The surprising discovery, based on brain scans, can also predict which people are most likely to donate cash to charity.

Bill Harbaugh at the University of Oregon in Eugene, US, and colleagues gave 19 female university students $100, and told them some of this money would have to go towards taxes.

Each volunteer then read a series of 60 separate taxation scenarios involving $0 to $45 in taxes, knowing that one of the scenarios would be selected at random and the related amount be subtracted from their $100.

As the participants viewed the tax scenarios, their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Surprisingly, whenever the students read the taxation scenarios, scientists saw a spike in activity within two of the brain's reward centres – the nucleus accumbens and caudate nucleus.

Harbaugh then repeated the experiment, but instead of the money being given in taxation, the scenarios related to charity donations, and the participants could choose to give their money.

These brain scans suggest that donating money creates an even greater boost in brain reward centres than paying mandatory taxes.

The 10 subjects who showed the greatest brain activity in response to hypothetical taxes in the first part of the study later chose to donate money twice as often as the other nine subjects.

At the end of the experiment, those whose brains responded more positively to tax-paying generally gave about $17 to charity, while the other nine subjects gave $10, on average.


Major Look said...

If they feel so good about it - they can pay my tax for me if they like.
They will then feel good, and I will feel good - win, win!

soraneko said...

In the case of Major Look's suggestion, would they feel even better due to paying taxes in a charitable manner?