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Stress can stimulate helping behavior when witnessing injustice

Summary: A new study finds that the acute stress felt by witnessing injustice may motivate people to help victims rather than punish perpetrators. This change in behavior is linked to increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a brain region involved in decision-making. The results suggest that helping others may be a more intuitive response than punishing them, especially when under stress.

Highlights:

  • The acute stress felt by witnessing injustice can motivate people to help victims.
  • This change in behavior is linked to increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).
  • Helping can be a more intuitive response than punishing, especially in stressful situations.

Source: PLOS

Being stressed by witnessing injustice could push your brain toward altruism, according to a study published May 14.th in the open access journal Biology PLOS by Huagen Wang of Beijing Normal University, China, and colleagues.

It takes more cognitive effort to punish others than to help them. Studies show that when witnessing an act of injustice while under stress, people tend to behave altruistically, preferring to help the victim rather than punish the perpetrator.

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Computer modeling found that acute stress reduces biases toward punishment, increasing the likelihood that someone will help the victim instead. Credit: Neuroscience News

This is consistent with theories proposing that distinct brain networks lead to intuitive, fast decisions and deliberate, slow decisions, but it is unclear how a bystander’s brain trades off between helping and punishing others in situations. stressful situations.

To better understand the neural processes behind third-party intervention in the face of injustice, Wang and his colleagues recruited 52 participants to complete a simulated third-party intervention task in an fMRI scanner. functional magnetic resonance), where they observed someone deciding how to distribute a cash prize between themselves and another character, who had to passively accept the proposal.

The participant then decided whether he wanted to take money from the first character or give it to the second.

About half of these participants dipped their hands in ice water for three minutes just before starting the task to induce stress.

Acute stress affected decision-making in extremely unfair situations, where the participant saw someone keep the vast majority of the money they were supposed to share with someone else.

Researchers observed activation of the superior dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a brain region typically linked to mentalizing and decision-making, when stressed participants chose to punish an offender.

Computer modeling found that acute stress reduces biases toward punishment, increasing the likelihood that someone will help the victim instead.

The authors say their results suggest that punishing others requires more deliberation, cognitive control and calculation than helping a victim.

These findings are consistent with a growing body of evidence suggesting that stressed individuals tend to act more cooperative and generous, perhaps because people devote more of their cognitive resources to deciding how to help the victim, rather than punishing. the attacker.

The authors add: “Acute stress shifts the intervention one-third from punishing the perpetrator to helping the victim. »

About this news from research on stress and social neuroscience

Author: Claire Turner
Source: PLOS
Contact: Claire Turner – PLOS
Picture: Image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original research: The results will appear in Biology PLOS

News Source : neurosciencenews.com
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