When humans do nice things, it’s common to feel good. Whether it be giving to charity, or maybe helping out a neighbor or a friend. While it may feel like these positive emotions are a result of doing the ‘right’ thing, there is also a biological basis for it. Neurologists like Jorge Moll have studied this phenomenon, and their research shows this ‘warm glow’ effect has a real impact on the brain (Ideamensch).
Jorge Moll is president-director and member of the governing board of the D’Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR), and has dedicated his life to understanding how feelings are related to exact areas in the brain (http://www.idor.org/nossa-equipe).
Dr. Moll’s research focuses on neural bases for behavior and moral cognition, and his studies show why humans are inclined to do nice things, even if as a species our survival can depend on being selfish. By reviewing brain activity when asking subjects to think about donating large amounts of money to charity, Dr. Moll was able to see that brains would ‘light up’ in the same places when being generous as they would when thinking about food or sex. Donating money showed up in this ‘reward’ system, as well as another, the one that lights up when you see a baby or a loved one. Jorge Moll’s research shows a primitive desire for humans to be generous, and the ‘warm glow’ feeling has an actual place rooted in the brain.
When asked what this means, Jorge Moll explains the results “strongly support the existence of ‘warm glow’ at a biological level. It helps convince people that doing good can make them feel good; altruism therefore doesn’t need to be only sacrifice”. While this idea had been presented in 1989, it was not until Jorge Moll’s study in 2006 that there was scientific evidence of a biological basis for this behavior. Thanks to Dr. Moll, we are one step closer to understanding why humans do what they do, and the science behind it.