Dr. Cowell

In this developmental neuroscience investigation, we attempted to tap into need-based ideas of giving in the brain. Here, pre-adolescents and adolescents (8-16 years) had to decide whether to divide resources equally between areas of need and areas of wealth (e.g., a poor school and a rich school). They were given a series of resources that were either necessary (e.g., books for a school) or luxury (e.g., candy for a school). While they were making these decisions, EEG was collected. Interestingly, participants exhibited an immediate neural differentiation between recipient’s needs (as early as 200ms after seeing the scenarios) and those that illustrated a neural difference between luxury and necessity tended to give the most to the needy recipients overall. These neural activations also related to parent’s notions of justice and fairness.

Meidenbauer, K. L., Cowell, J. M., Killen, M., & Decety, J. (2016). The developmental
neuroscience of charitable giving: A study of equity and equality. Child Development.