zakpj22 karma2013-10-22 17:30:12 UTC
My research shows we don't need God or gov't to be moral. Oxytocin is an evolutionary old mechanism that motivates social interactions and empathy. These are the ingredients for morality (we've test this in around 10K people over 10+ years a variety of ways). We are watching each other and penalize those who behave badly. But, a little God or gov't might be good. These are "crowd sourced" guidelines for appropriate moral behavior--just in case you decided you didn't like your spouse anymore, these sources say killing him/her is wrong almost always. These are useful because our moral intuitions (and oxytocin release) are affected by lots of factors that result in immoral behaviors. Like everything we do, they more we practice connecting to others, the easier and more likely it becomes.
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zakpj15 karma2013-10-22 17:09:00 UTC
Great question! Our brains prefer to do what we're used to doing (to save energy). So, high trust countries like Norway tend to trust others more than when the same experiment is run in a low trust country like Bolivia. We have studied people who had severely traumatic childhoods and about 50% of them don't have an intact oxytocin/empathy system. Lastly, those with "bad genes", e.g. psychopaths, lack empathy and have inhibited oxytocin release. So: to release oxytocin and show empathy you need, roughly, good genes, good parents, and a safe environment to live in.
zakpj13 karma2013-10-22 18:07:31 UTC
Your brain is an economic system: it has goals to achieve and limited resources with which to reach them. As a result, you build up habits to save brain resources. This is why even though your roommate repeatedly asks you to not put your dirty laundry on the floor, you can't break this habit easily. Because your brain is so expensive metabolically to run, it tries to run on low power most of the time. Your brain is lazy!
zakpj8 karma2013-10-22 17:01:58 UTC
Religious adherents are on average happier than nonreligious people. We've found that oxytocin release is just a bit larger in people who are "spiritually committed" than in others. Could be that the socializing during religious ceremonies exercises the oxytocin neurons.
zakpj8 karma2013-10-22 17:45:04 UTC
BTW, I pre-announce the hug so its not creepy and people can opt out. Opt outs are about 1%. I was in Vancouver over the weekend and had 1 guy opt out. That's fine
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