Enhancement in dopamine reduces generous behaviour in women

PLoS One. 2019 Dec 31;14(12):e0226893. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226893. eCollection 2019.


Generosity is a human behavior common in social contexts. However, humans are not equally generous to everyone alike. Instead, generosity decreases as a function of social distance, an effect called social discounting. Studies show that such social discounting effect depends on diverse factors including personality traits, cultures, stress or hormonal levels. Recently, the importance of the neurotransmitter dopamine in regulating social interactions has been highlighted. However, it remains unclear how exactly dopamine agonist administration modulates generous behavior as a function of social discounting. Here, we investigate the causal effect of dopamine agonist administration on social discounting in a pharmacological intervention study. We employ a randomized, double-blind, within-subject design to investigate the impact of the D2/D3 receptor agonist pramipexole on social discounting by keeping gender constant. We apply hyperbolic social discount model to the data and provide evidence that women under pramipexole become less generous in general, especially towards close others. Our results highlight the crucial role of dopamine in social decision making.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delay Discounting / drug effects
  • Delay Discounting / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Dopamine Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Pramipexole / administration & dosage*
  • Psychological Distance*
  • Young Adult


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Pramipexole
  • Dopamine

Grants and funding

S.Q.P. was supported by the German Research Foundation Grants PA 2682/2-1, PA 2682/1-2, FOR 2698/1 (TP3), INST 392/125-1 (C07), and SFB TR 134 (C07). Both S.Q.P. and L.L. were supported by a grant from the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the State of Brandenburg (DZD grant FKZ 82DZD00302). The publication of this article was funded by the Open Access Fund of the Leibniz Association. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.