This week's episode of The Wright Show features your host, Robert Wright, in a discussion with Paul Zak about his new book, The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity. There's been a lot of hype around oxytocin, some of it valid (infant/mother bonding, and it seems to be useful in improving social skills with autistic children) and some of it seems to be just hype (so far, there seems to be no method of administration that allows oxytocin to cross the blood-brain barrier, so any endogenous administration is questionable at best).
PAUL J. ZAK, Ph.D., is professor of economic psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University. As the founding director of Claremont's Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, he is at the vanguard of neuroeconomics, a new discipline that integrates neuroscience and economics. He has a popular Pyschology Today blog called The Moral Molecule. He makes numerous media appearances, and his research has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Scientific American, Fast Company, and many others.
Zak's research aims to challenge the thought that people generally are driven primarily to act for what they consider their self-interest, and asks how morality may modulate ones interpretation of what constitutes "self-interest" in ones own personal terms. Methodological questions have arisen in regards to Zak's work, however. Other commentators though have called his work "one of the most revealing experiments in the history of economics." Zak spoke at TED in 2011 - Trust, morality - and oxytocin
Where does morality come from -- physically, in the brain? In this talk neuroeconomist Paul Zak shows why he believes oxytocin (he calls it "the moral molecule") is responsible for trust, empathy, and other feelings that help build a stable society.
With that background, here is the Bloggingheads episode from this week.
Robert Wright (Bloggingheads.tv, The Evolution of God, Nonzero) and Paul J. Zak (The Moral Molecule, Claremont Graduate University)