LivingYour brain reacts to injustice

Your brain reacts to injustice

injusticia1A European investigation reveals thathuman reactions to unfair situations occur automaticallydue to aincreased activity of the brain amygdala. According to the study, men show greater aggressiveness than women in these types of situations.

When a person refuses to share something with another, the latter’s brain has mechanisms that cause an automatic reaction, linked to what it considers fair or unfair, according to a European investigation published today in the magazinePLoS Biology

The researchers tested this sense of fairness in 35 players, measuring their brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The game consisted of one player proposing to another a fixed sum of money to share between the two. The latter can accept the suggestion and take the money or reject it, in which case neither player receives anything. “If the sum to be distributed is 100 Swedish crowns and they are divided by two, 50 and 50 crowns, everyone accepts because it is considered fair,” explains Katarina Gospic, lead author of the study and researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (Sweden). However, if a player propose to keep 80 crowns and give the other person 20, it is considered unfair. This explains that, in about half of the cases, the player who has to receive the money rejects the proposal, even if he loses the 20 crowns.

Thanks to functional magnetic resonance imaging, experts have found thatthe area of the brain in charge of controlling financial decisions is in the amygdala and not in the prefrontal cortex and insula, as previous studies suggested. This brain region regulates thefeelings of anger and fearand alsoreact to injustices. The tendency to react aggressively and penalize the player who had suggested an unfair distribution of money was linked to increased activity in the amygdala. The same did not happen when the players were given a tranquilizer to combat anxiety – a benzodiazepine -: they showed low levels of activity in this brain area despite the money being distributed unfairly. In addition, the work shows that men respond more aggressively than women to situations of this type, a difference that is not recorded when tranquilizers are given.

“The results may have ethical implications becausethe use of certain medications can clearly affect daily decisions“concludes Martin Ingvar, another of the study’s authors.


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