When and why do we value the lives of others? Insights from brain, body and behaviour

Cutler, Jo (2020) When and why do we value the lives of others? Insights from brain, body and behaviour. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Altruistic behaviours benefit others at a cost to the self. They can be motivated by valuing the lives and wellbeing of other people. However, this value can be inconsistent, creating biases in who is valued and receives help. In this thesis, a literature review differentiates motivations for prosocial behaviour and then studies using neuroimaging, physiology, and behaviour explore the situational and individual factors that determine the value of otherpeople.Paper 1 uses fMRI meta-analysis to distinguish between altruistic decisions, driven by intrinsic value, and strategic prosocial decisions, which could be for extrinsic gain. Results demonstrate overlap in reward-related regions, activations unique to each context and differences between the two. Paper 2 presents a solution to an issue in fMRI meta-analysis. The following papers focus on altruistic contexts. Papers 3 and 4 identify the physiological (skin conductance) and neural (fMRI) correlates respectively of valuing lives at risk. Results show that this value can be biased by the number of people at risk, whether they are at home or abroad, and how many similar situations one has already seen. Papers 1, 3 and 4 suggest we are affected by events that happen to others and our ability to help them efficiently. Paper 5 tests whether this translates to curiosity and choices to find out about their fate or choices to avoid this knowledge. Results from a series of behavioural experiments show ‘wanting to know’ about an outcome depends on who it affects, who caused it, and whether it is positive or negative.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0636 Applied psychology > BF0637 Special topics A-Z > BF0637.H4 Helping behavior. Altruism
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2020 08:47
Last Modified: 20 May 2021 09:03
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/90952

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