Thursday, June 14, 2007
Feel Good Politics
Talk about your counterintuitive results!
According to this story in New Scientist, new research shows that paying taxes feels good.
Bill Harbaugh at the University of Oregon in Eugene, US, and colleagues gave 19 female university students $100, and told them some of this money would have to go towards taxes.Given 60 separate taxation scenarios involving $0 to $45 to be deducted from the $100, the volunteers'
. . . brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Surprisingly, whenever the students read the taxation scenarios, scientists saw a spike in activity within two of the brain's reward centres – the nucleus accumbens and caudate nucleus.Harbaugh then ran the experiment again where, instead of the money being given in taxation, the volunteers were given scenarios about donations to charity the participants could choose. On the reruns, Harbaugh was able to predict a subject's generosity based on their brain response to paying tax.
Harbaugh says that people probably like paying taxes more than they admit. He believes the results of his new study help explain the widespread compliance with tax laws. "We like to complain about it, but based on what we do, we are not as opposed to it as we like to say," Harbaugh says.
The 10 subjects who showed the greatest brain activity in response to hypothetical taxes in the first part of the study later chose to donate money twice as often as the other nine subjects.Gee . . . rich people often seem to enjoy giving to charity. Maybe our government could do them a good turn and increase their pleasure by undoing the tax rate reductions on the highest incomes that the Republicans have been torturing those . . . um . . . unfortunate people with.
At the end of the experiment, those whose brains responded more positively to tax-paying generally gave about $17 to charity, while the other nine subjects gave $10, on average.