Want to go on a shopping splurge without paying even a single cent?
You can try this: Print a copy of the Yahoo news page linked in this blog. Now, go to the mall, shop till you drop, and then go to the cashier. Tell the cashier, “You take my breath away with your beauty.” As the stunned cashier asks for your money or your credit card, show her instead the copy of the news page you printed.
This is because the news in that page says that “paying people a compliment is as good as paying them cash.”
Tell that to the cashier. If she calls the security guard to take you in, you may also compliment the security guard – “Oh, that’s very nice of you to come here. Nice uniform you got.”
Okay, okay, I’m just pulling your leg and taking the content of the news to its extreme interpretation.
But, really, Japanese researchers have found out that paying people a compliment appears to activate the same reward center in the brain as paying them cash.
The researchers said their study scientifically proves the long-held assumption that people get a psychological boost from having a good reputation.
“We found that these seemingly different kinds of rewards — a good reputation versus money — are biologically coded by the same neural structure, the striatum,” said Dr. Norihiro Sadato of the Japanese National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Okazaki, Japan.
See? They even know a high-fallutin’ word like “striatum.” Remember that. It can come in handy in a Scrabble game.
Dr. Sadato (not Sadako of “Ring” fame) went on to say that their findings provide “the biological basis of our everyday experience that personal reputation is felt as rewards.”
Sadato’s team studied 19 people using a brain imaging technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging.
In one set of experiments, people played a gambling game in which they were told one of three cards would yield a payout. The researchers then monitored the brain activity triggered when the subjects got a cash reward.
In a second set of experiments, people were told they were being evaluated by strangers based on information from a personality questionnaire and a video they had made.
The researchers then monitored reactions to these staged evaluations — including when the subjects thought strangers had paid them a compliment.
Both kinds of rewards triggered activity in a reward-related area of the brain.
Sadato said their finding is an important first step toward explaining complex human social behaviors such as altruism.
The fact that the social reward is biologically coded suggests that “the need to belong … is essential for humans,” said Sadato, whose study appears in the journal Neuron.
Well, I wonder why the Japanese still have to conduct so many experiments on the effects of compliments or a good reputation on the human mind.
Many of us already know in our hearts the positive effects of compliments or a good word said about us by other people. When we hear such compliments, of course we feel good in ourselves, we feel like doing more goodness around us, helping other people, so we could reap more non-material rewards.
But to expect the cashier to allow you to check out of the counter with the mountain of purchases in your shopping cart– with just your compliments as payment – that may happen only in the realm of dreams or fantasy.