STUDY: Decoding the Charitable Brain: Empathy, Perspective Taking, and Attention Shifts Differentially Predict Altruistic Giving


Human societies depend on the altruistic behavior of their members, but teasing apart its underlying motivations and neural mechanisms poses a serious challenge.


Using multivariate decoding techniques, we delineated three distinct processes for altruistic decision-making (affective empathy, cognitive perspective taking, and domain-general attention shifts), linked them to dissociable neural computations, and identified their relative influence across individuals.


Distinguishing process-specific computations both behaviorally and neurally is crucial for developing complete theoretical and neuroscientific accounts of altruistic behavior and more effective means of increasing it. Moreover, information on the relative influence of subprocesses across individuals and its link to people’s more general propensity to engage empathy or perspective taking can inform training programs to increase prosociality, considering their “fit” with different individuals.


  1. Anita Tusche
  2. Anne Böckler
  3. Philipp Kanske
  4. Fynn-Mathis Trautwein
  5. Tania Singer