Paying people a compliment appears to activate the same reward center in the brain as paying them cash, Japanese researchers said Wednesdayvia ABC News
"We found that these seemingly different kinds of rewards -- a good reputation versus money -- are biologically coded by the same neural structure, the striatum," said Dr. Norihiro Sadato of the Japanese National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Okazaki, Japan.
Sadato's team studied 19 healthy people using a brain imaging technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI.
In one set of experiments, people played a gambling game in which they were told one of three cards would yield a payout. The researchers then monitored the brain activity triggered when the subjects got a cash reward.
In a second set of experiments, people were told they were being evaluated by strangers based on information from a personality questionnaire and a video they had made.
The researchers then monitored reactions to these staged evaluations -- including when the subjects thought strangers had paid them a compliment.
Both kinds of rewards triggered activity in a reward-related area of the brain. Sadato said the finding represents an important first step toward explaining complex human social behaviors such as altruism.