Jo is a Postdoc in the Social Decision Neuroscience Lab with Dr Patricia Lockwood at the University of Birmingham. Her research uses techniques from neuroscience and physiology to understand prosocial decisions and charitable giving. Jo is interested in why people are prosocial, which situations make people more prosocial, and how prosocial decisions change across the lifespan.
PhD in Psychology, 2019
The University of Sussex
MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience, 2016
The University of Sussex
BSc in Psychology, 2015
The University of Leeds
Population aging is a global phenomenon with substantial implications across society1,2. Prosocial behaviors—actions that benefit others—promote mental and physical health across the lifespan3,4 and can save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. We examined whether age predicts prosociality in a preregistered global study (46,576 people aged 18–99 across 67 countries) using two acutely relevant measures: distancing during COVID-19 and willingness to donate to hypothetical charities. Age positively predicted prosociality on both measures, with increased distancing and donations among older adults. However, older adults were more in-group focused than younger adults in choosing who to help, making larger donations to national over international charities and reporting increased in-group preferences. In-group preferences helped explain greater national over international donations. Results were robust to several control analyses and internal replication. Our findings have vital implications for predicting the social and economic impacts of aging populations, increasing compliance with public health measures and encouraging charitable donations.
Prosocial behaviours – actions that benefit others – are central to individual and societal well-being. Most prosocial acts are effortful. Yet, how the brain encodes effort costs when actions benefit others is unknown. Here, using a combination of multivariate representational similarity analysis and model-based univariate analysis during fMRI, we reveal how the costs of prosocial efforts are processed. Strikingly, we identified a unique neural signature of effort in the anterior cingulate gyrus for prosocial acts both when choosing to help others and when exerting force for their benefit. This pattern was absent for similar self-benefitting behaviour and correlated with individual levels of empathy. In contrast, the ventral tegmental area and the ventral insula signalled subjective value preferentially when choosing whether to exert effort to benefit oneself. These findings demonstrate partially distinct brain areas guide the evaluation and exertion of effort costs when acts are prosocial or self-benefitting.