For example, in one study in healthy participants, striatal activation correlated with self-reported happiness that had been induced by reward cues proposed a neural model according to which happiness is directly associated with striatal activation.
However, the exact neural mechanisms through which generosity drives happiness remain unknown.
In the present study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (f MRI) to investigate how generosity is linked to happiness on the neural level.
To induce generous behaviour, we used the powerful method of a public pledge.
In each trial, the participants were presented with an option that they could accept or reject.
Each option was a combination of the benefits for the other person and the participants’ own costs.
We hypothesized that participants who had committed to spending their endowment on others would behave more generously in the decision-making task as well as self-report greater increases in happiness as compared to the control group.
Importantly, we predicted that the neural link between generosity and happiness would involve functional interactions between brain regions engaged in generous behaviour (TPJ) and those mediating happiness (ventral striatum). We found significantly higher levels of generous behaviour and happiness, as reflected by greater TPJ activity for generous choices and generosity-related connectivity of the TPJ with striatal happiness regions in the experimental group.
(b) After the participants had made the commitment, they were asked to select one person to whom they wanted to give a present.
Then they performed an independent decision-making task in the MRI scanner.