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PLoS One. 2019 Dec 31;14(12):e0226893. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226893. eCollection 2019.

Enhancement in dopamine reduces generous behaviour in women.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany.
2
Department of Decision Neuroscience & Nutrition, German Institute of Human Nutrition, Nuthetal, Germany.
3
Deutsches Zentrum für Diabetes, Neuherberg, Germany.
4
Department of Neurology, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck, Germany.
5
Neuroscience Research Center, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Corporate Member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health, Berlin, Germany.

Abstract

Generosity is a human behavior common in social contexts. However, humans are not equally generous to everyone alike. Instead, generosity decreases as a function of social distance, an effect called social discounting. Studies show that such social discounting effect depends on diverse factors including personality traits, cultures, stress or hormonal levels. Recently, the importance of the neurotransmitter dopamine in regulating social interactions has been highlighted. However, it remains unclear how exactly dopamine agonist administration modulates generous behavior as a function of social discounting. Here, we investigate the causal effect of dopamine agonist administration on social discounting in a pharmacological intervention study. We employ a randomized, double-blind, within-subject design to investigate the impact of the D2/D3 receptor agonist pramipexole on social discounting by keeping gender constant. We apply hyperbolic social discount model to the data and provide evidence that women under pramipexole become less generous in general, especially towards close others. Our results highlight the crucial role of dopamine in social decision making.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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