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Thread: Taxes make you feel good but voluntary Charity gives even more pleasure

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    Eshlemon's Avatar
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    Taxes make you feel good but voluntary Charity gives even more pleasure

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/06/14...eut/index.html

    Brain gets a thrill from charity
    POSTED: 6:35 p.m. EDT, June 14, 2007

    Story Highlights
    • Giving money to charity activates brain pleasure centers
    • Pleasure occurred when giving was mandatory; more when it was by choice
    • Pleasure was in areas for basic needs: food, sex, shelter, social connection
    • Researcher: Pleasure in mandatory giving suggests existence of pure altruism

    CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- Knowing your money is going to a good cause can activate some of the same pleasure centers in your brain as food and sex, U.S. researchers said Thursday.

    People who participated in a study got a charge knowing that their money went to a charity -- even when the contribution was mandatory, like a tax. They felt even better when they voluntarily made a donation, researchers found.

    Ulrich Mayr, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, said the research sheds light on the nature of altruism and could help people feel better about being taxed.

    "It shows that in an ideal world you could have a tax situation where you could be a satisfied taxpayer," said Mayr, whose study appeared in the journal Science.

    "The fact that we find pleasurable activity in those mandatory tax-like situations strongly suggests the existence of pure altruism," he said.

    Of course, simulating a tax is quite different from paying taxes to a government with policies you may or may not support, he noted.

    "What it shows is that, in principle, we are capable of feeling good about doing our share," he said.

    "The question is, 'Why is it that so often we feel bad about filling out our taxes?' Our study shows it is worth looking for an answer."
    I found this article trippy...we should all be shiny happy taxpayers but aren't for some reason.:goof:
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    ckb2001's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eshlemon View Post
    http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/06/14...eut/index.html

    I found this article trippy...we should all be shiny happy taxpayers but aren't for some reason.:goof:
    That dichotomy lies in the (lack of) capabilities of the machines used to scan brain activity. These machines (like fMRI's) are great because they allow us to see which areas of the brain are more active than others, but they simply are not discriminating enough to allow too much useful information to be gained from them.

    For example, the areas that are most active (which an fMRI finds by looking at blood flow to the area) usually comprise thousands to millions of neurons. Consider that an average neuron makes around 1,000 to 10,000 synapses with other neurons, and you can see how complex even a circuit of several hundred neurons could be, much less tens of thousands or so.

    These brain scans are completely blind to the actual circuitry. Thus, all they are really saying is that there is some relatively large area in the brain that is more active when we do X, and that happens to be the same area that is most active when we do Y.

    Really, it doesn't tell you much. So, while it's nice to know area Z is doing some kind of processing when we're happy and when we pay taxes, not knowing the actual circuitry means you have no idea what the relation is between the two (it could be strong or even non-existent) - hence the dichotomy you expressed.
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    Eshlemon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ckb2001 View Post
    That dichotomy lies in the (lack of) capabilities of the machines used to scan brain activity. These machines (like fMRI's) are great because they allow us to see which areas of the brain are more active than others, but they simply are not discriminating enough to allow too much useful information to be gained from them.

    For example, the areas that are most active (which an fMRI finds by looking at blood flow to the area) usually comprise thousands to millions of neurons. Consider that an average neuron makes around 1,000 to 10,000 synapses with other neurons, and you can see how complex even a circuit of several hundred neurons could be, much less tens of thousands or so.

    These brain scans are completely blind to the actual circuitry. Thus, all they are really saying is that there is some relatively large area in the brain that is more active when we do X, and that happens to be the same area that is most active when we do Y.

    Really, it doesn't tell you much. So, while it's nice to know area Z is doing some kind of processing when we're happy and when we pay taxes, not knowing the actual circuitry means you have no idea what the relation is between the two (it could be strong or even non-existent) - hence the dichotomy you expressed.
    After thinking about it, dichotomy also may be tied to reasoning and "common sense" which isn't factored into merely biological reactions. Just because giving all you're money to charity makes you feel real good, you know it's not the smart thing to do and would cause you anxiety and negative reations. Or a different analogy since the research ties this to the food/sex pleasure centers of the brain...eating chocholate and having sex all the time is going to give a lot of pleasure but you know it isn't wise no matter how good it feels. As for the taxes, as the article states "we could have a tax situation where you could be a satisfied taxpayer" but "we feel bad about filing our taxes" because we don't have that ideal tax situation.
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