The rich and powerful may have more stuff than you but that doesn’t mean they enjoy life more, right? Ummmmm… you may not want to hear this:
People have typically viewed the benefits that accrue with social status primarily from the perspective of external rewards. A new paper in the February 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry, published by Elsevier suggests that there are internal rewards as well.
Dr. Martinez and colleagues found that increased social status and increased social support correlated with the density of dopamine D2/D3 receptors in the striatum, a region of the brain that plays a central role in reward and motivation, where dopamine plays a critical role in both of these behavioral processes.
The researchers looked at social status and social support in normal healthy volunteers who were scanned using positron emission tomography (PET), a technology that allowed them to image dopamine type 2 receptors in the brain.
This data suggests that people who achieve greater social status are more likely to be able to experience life as rewarding and stimulating because they have more targets for dopamine to act upon within the striatum.