Charitable Estate Planning as Visualized Autobiography: An fMRI Study of its Neural Correlates

1 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2012 Last revised: 25 Dec 2012

Date Written: February 6, 2012

Abstract

This first ever functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis of charitable bequest decision-making found increased activation in the precuneus and lingual gyrus of the brain compared to charitable giving and volunteering decisions. Greater lingual gyrus activation was also associated with increased propensity to make a charitable bequest. Previous studies have shown that activation of these brain regions is related to taking an outside perspective of one’s self, recalling the recent death of a loved one, and recalling vivid autobiographical memories across one’s life. We propose that bequest decision-making is analogous to visualizing the final chapter in one’s autobiography and that fundraisers may do well to emphasize donors’ autobiographical connections with the charity. Due to inherent mortality salience, people may resist creating this final chapter, but once engaged may seek to leave an enduring legacy.

Keywords: neuroeconomics, fmri, bequest, charitable, charitable giving, charitable bequest, estate planning

JEL Classification: D12

Suggested Citation

James, Russell N. and O'Boyle, Michael W., Charitable Estate Planning as Visualized Autobiography: An fMRI Study of its Neural Correlates (February 6, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2000345 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2000345

Russell N. James (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University ( email )

2500 Broadway
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

Michael W. O'Boyle

Texas Tech University ( email )

2500 Broadway
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

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