Scientific American is reporting a study that shows “that money and social values are processed in the same brain region, providing insight into how we make choices”. Whuffie might be significantly more important factor in how people make decisions than cash rewards.
“Although we intuitively know that a good reputation makes us feel good, the idea that a good reputation is a ‘reward’ had long been just an assumption without scientific proof,” says Norihiro Sadato
The research performed an fMRI of participants brains while performing 2 different tasks. The first task was a card game where volunteers choose one of three kids with the chance of winning a cash reward. The second task included a computer game where they were given a chance to earn both monetary rewards and social status. The same sections of their brains became “just as animated” when given a chance to improve social standing as an opportunity to win money.
“It’s hugely influential even [when we’re not] in direct competition with someone else.” – Caroline Zink
It’s looking more and more that social status, and therefore social capital is a real motivator for people. We’re still a long way from having a social capital based currency like whuffie as described in Doctorow’s excellent Down and Out in the Magic Kindom. But social capital is a major motivational reward, and the work of Kathy Sierra and Tara Hunt about reputation and reward in communities is being supported by neuroscience.