David R. Henderson  

Warm Fuzzies May Have Scientific Support

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Back in March, in a post about cooperating with and helping others, I ended with this:

So I helped make things work better. Here was my interesting physical reaction. I actually felt a part of my brain feel warm and fuzzy. It's hard to describe, but it was a pleasurable feeling and it's one I've often had in social situations where I see a Pareto-improving move I can make and I make it.

My question: Have any of you had similar experience where you help make things better for others with no pecuniary reward and no expectation of such a reward, and then had that warm fuzzy feeling in your brain?

Or am I just weird?


I was reading Edward P. Stringham's Private Governance: Creating Order in Economic and Social Life, this morning--it's excellent, by the way--and I came across the following:
The MRIs showed that certain parts of the brain light up when subjects cooperate with people but not when they interact with computers.

So it does appear that there's some scientific corroboration for my "warm fuzzies."


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CATEGORIES: Economics and Culture




COMMENTS (6 to date)
Jon Murphy writes:

Interesting stuff.

Erik Brynjolfsson writes:

Thanks for sharing these fascinating findings. It helps broaden the concept of "self-interest" to include helping others. I just tweeted a link to your post.

Daniel Klein writes:

I have read about 65% of the following book and highly recommend it:

Matthew D. Lieberman, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, 2013.

To where I've read, there is no lefty tilt.

Here is a good Tedx talk by him (18 min).

Alan Watson writes:

Recently I was part of some negotiations between a number of parties regarding how we were going to cooperate on some important issues. My main opponent was a lawyer for one of the parties who seemed so focused on controlling the details that he threatened the essence of what the rest of us were trying to accomplish. My first instinct was to tell him he was a twerp or worse, but when I spoke up I found myself praising him and his contributions at some length before suggesting how a different interpretation might be better for us all. That's certainly not a unique negotiating strategy, but afterward I was surprised by how generously I had treated him, and I suddenly realized that at least part of the way I had behaved was the gracious attitude that I had picked up from reading David Henderson. I do get warm and fuzzy thinking about both my success in that negotiation and my reading of the way you like to deal with opponents. Thank you!

David R. Henderson writes:

Thanks, Jon, Erik, and Alan.

GregS writes:

I agree that Private Governance is an excellent book. It's definitely worth a read. I bought it a few weeks ago when Tyler Cowen did a short post about it and I read it within a few days.

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