Is Being Charitable in Our Nature? Jorge Moll Thinks So

From the time we are small children, we are told that it’s nice to share. As we go throughout life, we are inundated with phrases like “it is better to give than to receive,” and this motivates us to donate our time and resources to those in need. While we may have believed that this was a taught social behavior, neuroscientists like Jorge Moll are revealing that giving to others may be a biological tendency.

There are several studies and situations that prove this notion. One significant example is the story of model Petra Nemcova, who lost her fiance in the 2004 tsunamis in Thailand. Nemcova was also injured, and experienced severe pelvic fractures that could have paralyzed her. However, after she healed from her injuries, she came back to Thailand to help the people in the community who needed to rebuild their homes. While it would be logical for Petra to stay in the comfort of her home after such a tragedy, she was drawn to the place where she experienced the greatest pain of her life, and was convicted to help others. This principle is something that Moll has been studying for years. Moll shares that when people do good for the sake of benefitting others, the body naturally responds to this. The pleasure center of the brain is activated when people are charitable, in the same way that people feel positivity when they have sex or enjoy a great meal.

In 2006, Jorge Moll worked with other neuroscientists to prove that people who chose to donate money to others felt better than they would if they kept the money for themselves. This was the case even for people who were convinced that keeping the money would make them happier.

Moll is a native of Brazil and lives in Rio de Janiero, where he continues to discover new information on the science of giving.