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Are women’s and men’s brains wired differently when it comes to helping others?

Studies show that women are more giving in workplaces than men under ideal situations.

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When other people need help with something, it’s human nature to quickly respond to the call for help. Because giving and receiving can be pleasurable, there are plenty of reasons why we tend to extend the extra hand to help others in need. It could be that some believe that good karma will likely find its way back to them while others may feel good about themselves when helping. For some, it’s about returning the good deed when they themselves have needed help at some point in their lives.

While people may have different reasons (or none at all) as to why they like to extend a helping hand, one study says that both sexes respond differently when it comes to helping others because of the wiring in the brain.

Unlocking the answer with the help of the brain

A study that was recently published in Nature Human Behavior revealed that a part of women’s brains responded greatly when sharing money while the same part of men’s brains showed more activity when they kept the money to themselves. Philippe Tobler, an associate professor of neuroeconomics and social neuroscience at the University of Zurich and the co-author of the said study, said that women “put a more subjective value on prosocial behavior and men find selfish behavior more valuable.”

Tobler said that in male and female brains, the dopamine system is in charge of “encoding” the value or the activity in which the brain changes in proportion to the value given to social experiences. Dopamine plays a role in the brain’s reward system and is released during moments of pleasure while also helping to process values.

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To test out the theory, Tobler designed two experiments that test how dopamine influences men’s and women’s behavior. In one test, 56 male and female participants were given a choice between sharing a financial reward or keeping the money to themselves. Prior to making a decision, the participants were given a placebo, and it found that women acted less selfishly than the opposite sex. But when dopamine systems were disrupted after taking a drug called amisulpride, women acted more selfishly while men became generous.

Working woman helping others

Men and women are different, and each has a way of giving and receiving in the workplace. (Source)

The act of giving and receiving in the workplace

While there are still more that needed to be studied about the attitudes of both sexes in giving and receiving, how is the concept of giving and receiving practiced in the workplace?

In an office setting, seeking and giving advice is often a common occurrence, especially when it comes to making those big decisions that could possibly make or break a business. As this is crucial in leadership, managers don’t see this as a practical skill that they could learn or improve on. In most cases, advising is based as a matter of good judgment.

Moreover, the interaction between advice seekers and givers should be considered an art as it requires several aspects such as emotional intelligence, self-awareness, restraint, diplomacy, and patience. However, if things don’t pan out the way it should, it can have consequences like misunderstanding and frustration, a gridlock in decision-making, half-baked solutions, broken relationships and even thwarted personal development.

Some of the best practices to follow when seeking and giving advice include some of these things:

  • Find the right adviser who can work in your best interest and who are more than willing to give you what you may want or do not want to hear.
  • Develop a shared understanding by conveying enough information to your adviser to be able to help you solve a problem.
  • Decision making is vastly improved if there are plenty of options available, so be open to crafting alternatives.
  • When converging on a decision, don’t hesitate on soliciting a second or third opinion.

Desmond O’Flynn is Irish but he’s not into boxing. He writes about finance and investing, as well as world politics and global economy. He used to believe that he didn’t have the luck of the Irish since he failed his art class thrice, but this immediately changed after meeting his wife Katarina, a startup interior design consultant based in Dublin. He is also a financial adviser.

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