Donating to charity is good for the brain and heart

That good feeling you get by writing a check to your favorite charity could be your brain patting itself on the back.

A team of economists and psychologists at the University of Oregon have found that donating money to charity activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure. The study represents a major advance in the young field of neuroeconomics, a collaboration between economists and psychologists to determine how the brain directs the way people handle money.

Economic models would suggest "only Bill Gates or Warren Buffett should be making contributions, and everyone else should just free-ride," said one of the authors, economics professor William Harbaugh. "But that doesn't happen; there's high participation, where even low-income people are giving away a portion of their income."

The apparent reason is that giving to others produces a "warm glow." As Harbaugh described it, "people feel good knowing that they're a charitable giver."

[Chicago Tribune]

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