A new study has revealed that the human brain places more value on winning when one is in a social setting as opposed to when one is winning alone.
Georgio Coricelli of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences led a multinational team of researchers that measured activity in the regions of the brain associated with rewards and social reasoning while participants in the study participated in lotteries.
Researchers found that the striatum – a part of the brain associated with rewards, showed higher activity when a participant beat a peer in the lottery, as opposed to when the participant won while alone and the medial prefrontal cortex – a part of the brain associated with social reasoning, was more activated as well.
The researchers also saw that the participants who won in a social setting also tended to engage in more risky and competitive behaviour in subsequent lotteries.
“These findings suggest that the brain is equipped with the ability to detect and encode social signals, make social signals salient, and then, use these signals to optimise future behaviour,” Coricelli said.
Coricelli also explained that losing without social support network, a bad gamble can spell doom, whereas rewards tend to be winner-takes-all in group environments.
“Among animals, there are strong incentives for wanting to be at the top of the social ranking,” Coricelli stated.
“Animals in the dominant position use their status to secure privileged access to resources, such as food and mates.” Coricelli concluded.