Women are more prosocial...unless their reward system is dampened

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The dopaminergic reward system underpins gender differences in social preferences


Women are known to have stronger prosocial preferences than men, but it remains an open question as to how these behavioural differences arise from differences in brain functioning. Here, we provide a neurobiological account for the hypothesized gender difference. In a pharmacological study and an independent neuroimaging study, we tested the hypothesis that the neural reward system encodes the value of sharing money with others more strongly in women than in men. In the pharmacological study, we reduced receptor type-specific actions of dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to reward processing, which resulted in more selfish decisions in women and more prosocial decisions in men. Converging findings from an independent neuroimaging study revealed gender-related activity in neural reward circuits during prosocial decisions. Thus, the neural reward system appears to be more sensitive to prosocial rewards in women than in men, providing a neurobiological account for why women often behave more prosocially than men.


This is something I've always known about women. Might it explain why they would also seem to me to be more community-minded? As a male I am community (and unity) minded, but I think diversity is just as important. Ideally one should not overwhelm the other, I feel.

I am curious to know why you felt this study was interesting, which it is. Does it speak to something in particular about relationships?

I just thought it was

interesting to see confirmation that the reward system of the brain is indeed involved in behavioral distinctions, as that is a key aspect of Cupid's thesis. To state it another way, perception influences actions/choices, and that part of the brain has unsuspected influence on our perceptions. Research like this helps us be more aware of how our innate programming "leans," which can make us more conscious and less inclined to rely solely on its autopilot "features."

Whichever way a person leans on the community-diversity scale, there are appropriate times for both inclinations. I believe that the key to transitioning appropriately in response to particular circumstances lies in keeping the reward system in balance via careful use of sex, meditation, time in nature, healthy diet, and/or however one chooses to do it.



Thank you for that reply. I like what you said about how awareness of how our innate programming "leans" can help us work with our autopilot "features."

I agree with everything you said and clarified. I appreciate the article.

Does this suggest the sexes

Does this suggest the sexes are designed to balance each other? And I suppose that if women orgasm and men don't we're doomed? Or that under that model, women are to blame biologically for non-prosocial behavior of humanity (see, it really was those selfish mothers)?

This might have interesting implications for understanding women led business environments. And I suppose male led ones as well.