Jorge Moll Works with Other Neuroscience Professionals to Further Explain the Science of Doing Good

During the holiday season of 2004, model Petra Nemcova experienced the tragedy of her life when she and her fiance Simon Atlee were vacationing in Thailand. This was the year that the tsunami devastated the country, and Nemcova lost her fiance during this natural disaster. She was also badly wounded. Her pelvis was severely fractured and doctors were shocked that she wasn’t paralyzed.

After one of the worst experiences of her life, Petra returned to the site of the tsunami less than a year later after losing the love of her life and having to recover from serious injuries. Scientists say that Nemcova’s choice is due to the biological tendency the humans have to be charitable toward one another. Neuroscientists like Jorge Moll even assert that when humans do good things for each other, the pleasure center of the brain is activated, which is also what happens when humans engage in sex or have a delicious meal.

We learn from a very early age that “it’s better to give than to receive.” From the time we are toddlers, we are conditioned to share with others and to make sure that we lend a helping hand to those in need. However, it’s quite possible that giving goes much deeper than that. When people go back to the place where they nearly died or lost someone they love, the way Nemcova did, it seems that the tendency to do this would innate and not just emotional. Petra decided that she wanted to help others who had been through the same type of devastation, when it would have been much easier for her to remain in the comfort of her own home once she physically recovered.

Moll and his colleagues did a study in 2006 that indicated that people were happier when they donated a sum of money to someone else than when they kept the money for themselves ( This was even the case for people who thought they would be happier if they kept the money. This further indicates that humans have a biological tendency to give because of the psychological and mental benefits, which could mean that being charitable is actually a basic need.