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Oxytocin, The Moral Molecule - Poem by gershon hepner
OXYTOCIN, THE MORAL MOLECULE
If you find all the people whom you meet seem to be grossin'
you out you may have a deficiency of oxytocin,
a hormone empathy produces so that you can trust
the sort of feelings which a lack of it turns love to lust.
Without oxytocin nobody can be seduced
by love that's virtuous, you need the oxytocin boost
to bond with lovers, with whom you without it always quarrel:
The moral is this moral molecule makes people moral.
Paul J. Zak, Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics at Claremont Graduate University, who is also a Professor of Neurology at Loma Linda University, writes about oxytocin in the WSJ,4/28-29-12 ("The Trust Molecule") :
Why are some people trustworthy, while others lie, cheat and steal? Part of the answer may reside in a hormone called oxytocin. Claremont Graduate University's Paul Zak talks with WSJ's Gary Rosen about how a 'vampire wedding' helped him understand how this chemical works to control trust, empathy and virtue.
Could a single molecule—one chemical substance—lie at the very center of our moral lives?
Research that I have done over the past decade suggests that a chemical messenger called oxytocin accounts for why some people give freely of themselves and others are coldhearted louts, why some people cheat and steal and others you can trust with your life, why some husbands are more faithful than others, and why women tend to be nicer and more generous than men. In our blood and in the brain, oxytocin appears to be the chemical elixir that creates bonds of trust not just in our intimate relationships but also in our business dealings, in politics and in society at large…
More strikingly, we found that you don't need to shoot a chemical up someone's nose, or have sex with them, or even give them a hug in order to create the surge in oxytocin that leads to more generous behavior. To trigger this 'moral molecule, ' all you have to do is give someone a sign of trust. When one person extends himself to another in a trusting way—by, say, giving money—the person being trusted experiences a surge in oxytocin that makes her less likely to hold back and less likely to cheat. Which is another way of saying that the feeling of being trusted makes a person more…trustworthy. Which, over time, makes other people more inclined to trust, which in turn…
The experiments I have conducted show that many group activities—singing, dancing, praying—cause the release of oxytocin and promote connection and caring. As social creatures, we have created activities that prompt the expression of oxytocin in order to foster connection to others. In fact, those who release the most oxytocin when they are trusted are happier and healthier because they have richer social lives.
Even the sort of 'social snacking' that happens through Twitter or checking out a friend's Facebook page can prompt an oxytocin surge. But the real criterion for success is whether these online activities complement more substantial personal connections. Does this form of communication foster human bonds or does it foster anonymity and abstraction to the point of cutting off empathy?
Hi Gershon, wow! My work has never inspired a poem before. Very cool. thanks for sending it.
Comments about Oxytocin, The Moral Molecule by gershon hepner
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