I often hear believers use anecdotal evidence of religious people that do many charitable acts, and it always makes me wonder what actually motivated those acts and how that factors into society's view of how "good" that person is. I know, for instance, that many people actually obtain dopamine stimulation by performing acts they themselves view as unselfish or charitable.
Assume a person (Alex) that receives a dopamine rush in the brain from performing acts of charity and another (Bill) who receives no such effect. If Alex spends 80% of his time doing charity work, but Bill spends only 10% of his time doing the same, who should be judged a “better” person? In this case, Alex is rewarded for each such act (in the most direct way possible) while Bill never receives any reward for his charitable behavior. Externally, however, Alex would seem the most charitable.
This poses another issue. To the extent such a thing is possible, should parents be encouraged to condition their children to reward themselves internally for charitable acts? This would certainly make them more likely to engage in such acts in the future, but can what they do truly be described as “good?” What is the difference here between a heroin addict and a dopamine addict other than the external repercussions of their actions? Each does what he or she does for the stimulating reward so can one truly be judged a better person than the other simply because of the consequences of their actions?
One question I would pose to the forums is whether anyone is aware of any research into these or related issues. For instance, any research into how internal chemical reward systems are triggered or respond to charitable acts or how many might experience these effects. Is anyone aware of such research?