Taxation doesn't have to be taxing

September 1, 2007

Want to light up the pleasure center in your brain? Pay your taxes and then voluntarily give a little extra to your local food bank.

Want to light up the pleasure center in your brain? Pay your taxes and then voluntarily give a little extra to your local food bank.

Nineteen women were scanned with fMRI as they were either subjected to a mandatory tax paid to a food bank, chose to give more money voluntarily, or kept it for themselves (Science 2007;316[5831]:1622-1625).

The caudate nucleus and the nucleus accumbens fired when subjects saw the charity get the money. Even greater activation occurred when people gave the money voluntarily, instead of just paying it as a tax. These brain regions are the same ones that fire when basic needs such as food are satisfied and pleasures are experienced.

People have said they don't mind paying taxes if it's for a good cause. Now it's quantified, said study author Ulrich Mayr, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon.