Sep 30, 2016

Dex's Book Review:The Moral Molecule

Paul J Zack has a Ph.D in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and postgraduate training in Neuroscience from Harvard University.He is now Professor of Economics,Psychology and Management and Claremont,and Clinical Professor of Neurology and Loma Linda University Medical Center in California.

Imagined that you were at a railway station with your son. All of a sudden you saw a man fell onto the railway track.Without hesitation, you asked the man standing beside you to look after your son and then you jumped onto to track to save the man who has fallen.

Why would you risk your life to save a stranger? How can you trust a stranger to look after your son?

Why do we get cheated by con men?

How can we be happier?

The answer lies with the presence of oxytocin in our body system and this is what this book is all about, oxytocin.It is a hormone and acts as a brain transmitter and plays an important role in human bonding and which Zack has a lifelong fascination. He calls it the moral molecule.

In this book,Zack has shown the role of oxytocin in human behavior through his many experiments.

In the first part of the book,he was invited to a friend's wedding to conduct an experiment to determine the level of oxytocin of the bride and the guests.Blood samples were taken just before the wedding ceremony to get a base line level and after the wedding to make a comparison.It was shown that the level of most of them showed a higher level of oxytocin after the wedding ceremony.

The second experiment is what Zack called the Trust Game.
The participants were divided into group A and B and one group was given a certain sum of money and were told to give the other group any amount of money as they wish and the amount will doubled when received by the receiver.The receivers of the money were told to reciprocate any amount of money to the giver.When the game was over,it was found that for those who gave and reciprocated generously,their oxytocin level seemed to be higher.Similarly,Zack did a test in Papua New Guinea during a ritual tribal dance to determine the oxytocin level before and after the dance.And the result was as expected by Zack.

When oxytocin surges,people behave that are kinder,more generous and caring.And oxytocin surges when people are shown a sign of trust.

.It will be more interesting if Zack could elaborate in greater details the methodology of the many tests that he conducted.Was it just as simple as "before and after" test comparison or were the results skewed towards his expectations?

Is oxytocin in our body the only factor that affects our social bonding?
What about the external factor,like money?

As Zack said,"This book book is going to show you why this oxytocin effect happens,when it happens,and how we can make it happen more often."

Read this book with an open mind and along the way, I hope it can guide you to develop trust and empathy among our fellow humans in a different way.


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