Science Confirms That Women Are Naturally More Generous Than Men

Unsplash/Evan Kirby

Most of us are aware of the long-lived stereotype that women are more giving than men, right? Well, research is now uncovering new information as to why this pattern seems to ring true so often.

A new study from the University of Zurich conducted two behavior experiments with a group of 27 women and 28 men all of college age to explore the generosity tendencies in both genders and how their reactions to prosocial behavior (AKA selfless behavior) look in the brain.

For the first experiment, the group played a game where participants were given an equal sum of money and asked to decide what to do with it. As they made their choices, a functional magnetic resonance machine (fMRI) took images of their brains. When women chose to give some of their money away, their striatum — or reward center in the brain — activated. And when men chose to keep all of their money for themselves, their striatum activated.

The second experiment repeated the same game, but after each participant took a drug that suppresses dopamine, which is a feel-good hormone that plays a key role in the brain’s reward center. This time around, when women chose to hold onto all of their money, their striatum activated, and when men decided to share some of their money, their striatum activated.

Unsplash/Ben White

It’s interesting to see that men and women receive opposing internal rewards for behaving the same way, and it’s even more interesting to see how our decisions make us feel when dopamine is no longer part of the equation.

With that said, though, the researchers were very clear to not attribute all generous (or selfish) behavior to these different reactions in the brain since male and female brains are not fundamentally unique at the time of birth. It’s entirely plausible that our reactions to these kinds of behaviors have been learned over time and influenced by culture and environment.

Other study limitations include the fact that it was executed with a very small sample size with age restrictions, and it honed in entirely on the particular type of generosity related to financial charity. Money habits don’t necessarily mimic the way someone chooses to share other resources like time or even food. Generosity can manifest in a multitude of ways, so that’s important to keep in mind as we continue to explore this topic further.

But for now, we’re entirely okay with saying that girls tend to beat boys in the generosity department — not just because it makes other people happy, but because it makes them feel a sense of satisfaction, too.