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Selfish or Selfless? Human Nature Means You’re Both

Keith Yoder and Jean Decety: Today, concern for oneself and concern for others both contribute to our sense of fairness. Together they facilitate cooperation among unrelated individuals, something ubiquitous among people but uncommon in nature. A critical question is how people balance these two motivations when making decisions. We investigate this question in our work at the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Chicago, combining behavioral economics tasks with neuroimaging methods that let us watch what’s happening in the brains of adults and children. We’ve found evidence that people care about both themselves and others — but it’s the self that takes precedence.

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