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When Helping Is Risky: The Behavioral and Neurobiological Trade-off of Social and Risk Preferences

Gross, J., Faber, N. S., Kappes, A. ORCID: 0000-0003-0867-6630 , Nussberger, A-M., Cowen, P. J., Browning, M., Kahane, G., Savulescu, J., Crockett, M. J. & De Dreu, C. (2021). When Helping Is Risky: The Behavioral and Neurobiological Trade-off of Social and Risk Preferences. Psychological Science, 32(11), pp. 1842-1855. doi: 10.1177/09567976211015942

Abstract

Helping other people can entail risks for the helper. For example, when treating infectious patients, medical volunteers risk their own health. In such situations, decisions to help should depend on the individual’s valuation of others’ well-being (social preferences) and the degree of personal risk the individual finds acceptable (risk preferences). We investigated how these distinct preferences are psychologically and neurobiologically integrated when helping is risky. We used incentivized decision-making tasks (Study 1; N = 292 adults) and manipulated dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain by administering methylphenidate, atomoxetine, or a placebo (Study 2; N = 154 adults). We found that social and risk preferences are independent drivers of risky helping. Methylphenidate increased risky helping by selectively altering risk preferences rather than social preferences. Atomoxetine influenced neither risk preferences nor social preferences and did not affect risky helping. This suggests that methylphenidate-altered dopamine concentrations affect helping decisions that entail a risk to the helper.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Publisher Keywords: decision-making, neurotransmitters, preferences, risk taking, social behavior, open data, open materials
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
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