Maybe we could practice on some Op-ed columnists:
Now, using a tool called the “ultimatum game”, researchers have identified the part of the brain responsible for punishing unfairness. Subjects were put into anonymous pairs, and one person in each pair was given $20 and asked to share it with the other. They could choose to offer any amount – if the second partner accepted it, they both got to keep their share.
....in cases where only a very small share was offered, the vast majority of "receivers" spitefully rejected the offer, ensuring that neither partner got paid.
Previous brain imaging studies have revealed that part of the frontal lobes known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or DLPFC, becomes active when people face an unfair offer and have to decide what to do. Researchers had suggested this was because the region somehow suppresses our judgement of fairness.
But now, Ernst Fehr, an economist at the University of Zurich, and colleagues have come to the opposite conclusion – that the region suppresses our natural tendency to act in our own self interest.
They used a burst of magnetic pulses called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – produced by coils held over the scalp – to temporarily shut off activity in the DLPFC. Now, when faced with the opportunity to spitefully reject a cheeky low cash offer, subjects were actually more likely to take the money.
.... Fehr says the research has interesting implications for how we treat young offenders. "This region of the brain matures last, so if it is truly overriding our own self interest then adolescents are less endowed to comply with social norms than adults," he suggests. The criminal justice system takes into account differences for under-16s or under-18s, but this area fully matures around the age of 20 or 22, he says.