New paper on how stress affects altruism and the brain’s self-control areas (especially in people who take others’ perspectives!)

Altruism is a fundamental building block of our society. Emerging evidence indicates a major role of acute stress and stress-related neuromodulators in social behavior and decision-making. How and through which mechanisms stress may impact altruism remains elusive. We observed that the stress hormone cortisol is linked to diminished altruistic behavior. This effect is mediated by reduced value representations in the brain’s self-control hub in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC). People that tend to take other people’s perspectives (high mentalizers) were particularly vulnerable to the effect of stress on altruism! Our findings link altruism to stress-hormone dynamics and brain mechanisms, with important implications for future developments of more targeted interventions for stress-related decrements in social behavior and social cognition.