Response of dorsomedial prefrontal cortex predicts altruistic behavior

Adam Waytz*, Jamil Zaki, Jason P. Mitchell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Human beings have an unusual proclivity for altruistic behavior, and recent commentators have suggested that these prosocial tendencies arise from our unique capacity to understand the minds of others (i.e., to mentalize). The current studies test this hypothesis by examining the relation between altruistic behavior and the reflexive engagement of a neural system reliably associated with mentalizing. Results indicated that activity in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex-a region consistently involved in understanding others' mental states-predicts both monetary donations to others and time spent helping others. These findings address long-standing questions about the proximate source of human altruism by suggesting that prosocial behavior results, in part, from our broader tendency for social-cognitive thought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7646-7650
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number22
StatePublished - May 30 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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