Generous people are more in touch with their heart, research shows

"These findings suggest that, in some sense, people 'listen to their heart' to guide their selfless behaviors," psychologist Jane Aspell said.
By Brooks Hays  |  Nov. 15, 2017 at 12:35 PM
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Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Generous people are said to give or help in a heartbeat. New research suggests generous people are also more in touch with their heartbeat.

The findings, detailed this week in the journal Scientific Reports, suggest links between body and brain my influence altruistic behavior.

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University and Stockholm University had study participants play a computer game approximating charitable giving. During the game, players divvied up a pot of money with another anonymous player. Their decisions affected how much real money the two participants received.

Prior to the game, the participants took part in a separate test during which they were hooked up to an EKG machine. They were asked to listen to a beat and identify whether it was in-rhythm or out-of-synch with their own heart beat.

The tests showed participants who were better able to identify whether or not a beat matched the rhythm of their heart tended to give more generously during the game.

Those 10 percent more in-tune with their heartbeat were apt to give an extra 5 British pounds, or $6.50 U.S.

"Despite clear biological and economic advantages of acting in self-interest, people consistently make decisions that benefit others, at a cost to themselves," Richard Piech, professor of psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, said in a news release. "Our study suggests that selfless acts may be influenced by signals from the body that reach the brain."

Researchers suggest more work in needed to explore this link between body and brain.

"It may be that an emotionally-charged situation -- such as deciding whether or not to give money away -- causes a change in heartbeat," psychology professor Jane Aspell said. "This bodily change may then bias decision making towards the generous option in those people who are better at detecting their heartbeats. These findings suggest that, in some sense, people 'listen to their heart' to guide their selfless behaviors."

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