Paying people a compliment appears to activate the same reward center in the brain as paying them cash, Japanese researchers said as quoted by media reports Thursday.
They said the study provides support for the long-held assumption that people get a psychological boost from having a good reputation.
"We found that these seemingly different kinds of rewards -- a good reputation versus money -- are biologically coded by the same neural structure, the striatum," said Dr. Norihiro Sadato of the Japanese National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Okazaki, Japan.
"This provides the biological basis of our everyday experience that personal reputation is felt as rewards," Sadato said in an e-mail.
Altogether, Japanese researchers studied 19 healthy people using a brain imaging technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging, or FMRI.
In one set of experiments, people played a gambling game in which they were told one of three cards would yield a payout. The researchers then monitored the brain activity triggered when the subjects got a cash reward.
In another set of experiments, people were told they were being evaluated by strangers based on information from a personality questionnaire and a video they had made. The researchers then monitored reactions to these staged evaluations -- including when the subjects thought strangers had paid them a compliment.
Both kinds of rewards triggered activity in a reward-related area of the brain, the study shows.
(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency April 24, 2008)