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Neuron. 2010 Oct 6;68(1):149-60. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.09.003.

Neural responses to ingroup and outgroup members' suffering predict individual differences in costly helping.

Author information

1
Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland. ghein@iew.uzh.ch

Abstract

Little is known about the neurobiological mechanisms underlying prosocial decisions and how they are modulated by social factors such as perceived group membership. The present study investigates the neural processes preceding the willingness to engage in costly helping toward ingroup and outgroup members. Soccer fans witnessed a fan of their favorite team (ingroup member) or of a rival team (outgroup member) experience pain. They were subsequently able to choose to help the other by enduring physical pain themselves to reduce the other's pain. Helping the ingroup member was best predicted by anterior insula activation when seeing him suffer and by associated self-reports of empathic concern. In contrast, not helping the outgroup member was best predicted by nucleus accumbens activation and the degree of negative evaluation of the other. We conclude that empathy-related insula activation can motivate costly helping, whereas an antagonistic signal in nucleus accumbens reduces the propensity to help.

PMID:
20920798
DOI:
10.1016/j.neuron.2010.09.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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