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Manual The Moral Molecule: the new science of what makes us good or evil

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Increases in oxytocin level faciliate increases in trust. Trust, in turn, facilitates sexual encounter, and thus broadens the opportunity for contributing to the overall gene pool. For example, in order to mate, the female lobster must trust sufficiently to abandon her shell when she mates. Trust is also a necessary component for cooperative socialization. The prairie vole, as opposed to the meadow vole, is part of an organized social colony. Prairie voles have more oxytocin receptors than their more independent cousins, the meadow voles. Zak is able to reduce complex scientific data into delightfully comprehensive chunks, and these are the parts of the book I enjoyed the most.

He points out that the level of blood oxytocin is not the critical factor. There must be a spike from baseline to post-event he stumbles upon this discovery in an experiment with psychologically traumatized subjects. Second, the oxytocin must be absorbed through receptors which are distributed in specific areas of the brain. The receptors, in turn, determine the release of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.

A modulating effect occurs simultaneously. Contra-chemicals — testosterone, cortisol and epinephrine, can either inhibit the release of oxytocin or block the oxytocin receptors. A combination of testosterone and dopamine induced by oxytocin can induce a state of enjoyment over aggressive behavior. If the subgenual cortex is stimulated, judgment rather than empathy can be the dominant emotion.

Amounts below this threshold triggered rejection punishment , even if it caused harm to both parties. He speculates on the relationship between empowerment and feelings of entitlement. A final set of experiments focus on the correlation between oxytocin spiking, generosity, and in-group behaviors. Speculative generalizations are this book's weakness. Zak suggests that autism may be linked to what he terms oxytocin deficiency disorder potentially confusing, since ODD is referred to in the psychological literature as something completely different — Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

He repeats the pop-psych conjecture that an increase in Aspergers Syndrome in the Silicon Valley is due to mating of ueber nerdy cyber geeks who themselves excel professionally because of their own asperger-like traits. This casual aside might fit into a speech to generate some humor, but in the context of the book, it feels like undisciplined thinking. An analysis of trust in the marketplace devolves into what felt to me like wishful thinking. That fact, however, has not proven to be a corporate culture game changer. The individual is simultaneously a member of complex family configurations, multiple task and departmental employee groups, peer-based colleagues, a wider network of professionals, etc.

Moral and immoral impulses can emanate from any one of these conflicting affiliations. The same holds for constructive versus destructive decisions, since constructive and moral are not identical. Zak is cognizant of these contradictions experiments with religious and military based groups , but prefers optimistic inferences. Ultimately, much of my dissatisfaction stems from my own inclinations. I prefer precision. Examinations of chemical biofeedback and homeostasis feel much more convincing than the broader functionalist approach offered here.

Paul Zak: Are Humans Good or Evil?

I admit these are personal prejudices. Jul 06, Justin rated it liked it Shelves: neuroscience , nonfiction , science. The power of hugs! In fact, I got to meet Paul Zak at a panel, and the first thing he did was give me a hug. So, the man definitely walks his talk. This is another entry in the recently hot pop-neuroscience genre of nonfiction. Despite the backlash to neuroscience and the backlash to the backlash, etc. This particular book has a narrow focus: oxytocin, the hormone responsible for parental bonding and post-coital glow. Zak aggressively pursues the thesis that oxytocin is responsible not only for feelings of well-being in individuals, but in entire societies.

He then spins this research off into a potentially wider arena by linking it to his original field: economics. I tend to approach neuroscience books with an open mind and an accepting attitude, but this one still set off my internal skeptic alarm. Still, Zak offers a lot of food for thought, especially on how oxytocin operates in the presence of interfering factors such as testosterone and trauma. All told, an interesting look at what oxytocin is, and some interesting ideas on what understanding and harnessing it could mean.

Feb 06, Paige rated it it was ok. It feels like it's been forever since I posted a book review I have been so busy with other things and when I do get a break my focus has been on stuff besides reading. I learned something, which is why it got the stars it did. Apparently this guy writes for Psychology Today, which is a publication that I have no great respect for.

If I'd known that when I picked it up at the library, I probably wouldn't have bothered. Alas it sounded interesting. W It feels like it's been forever since I posted a book review Was it? Well, yes and no. I feel like this subject could have been totally awesome.

The writing style was accessible, but seemed to lack depth. I would imagine hope his actual research is a little more, er, scientific? This one even included jokes about cannibalism. Zak: kindly plz don't It ended with "so people in Papua New Guinea also have the same biologically wired hormone responses that we Westerners do!!

What next? Do Papua New Guineans also have red blood and four chambered hearts? Might they even have Qu'est-ce que c'est?!?! I knocked off a star for that shit. Oct 01, Andrew Smith rated it really liked it. You sort of get the idea pretty quickly with this one, but the book's thesis - that human beings are predisposed to empathy and social behaviour - is so profound that the evidence is well worth hearing. Written in an easy, chatty style, I would give is three and a half stars as a read in itself, but six in terms of its importance.

It will change the way you think about yourself and other people, and affect your own behaviour on a day to day basis. Apr 13, Lindsay Nixon rated it it was amazing. This book has been so fascinating, covering far more than I expected and it challenged several lifelong beliefs I had. For example, I believed we would have no morality without religion--not that you have to be religious to be moral, but that morality was conceptualized by religion.


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That is simply not the case. Our DNA is programed for us to act in ways we socially define as "moral" because that is required for species survival. The beginning part about Oxycetocin was also very interesting. Zak This book has been so fascinating, covering far more than I expected and it challenged several lifelong beliefs I had.

Zak has a minute Ted talk free on Youtube that covers most of what is in this book and you can use it as a gauge if you want to dive deeper. One exception, he spends an incredible amount of time on Autism, which if you know someone who has autism, I strongly encourage you read that part of this book. Very good storytelling science. Paul Zak uses a coloquial approach to talk about his neurosciences discoveries, making it very easy for non specialist to grasp meanings and real implications of what has been discovered. Zak knows his works has been highly promoted by the media, thus in this book he does a very good work at debunking misconceptions about the easy solutions presented by the simplified media messages.

Oxytocin is the molecule Zak talks about. Zak argues, with empirical evidence, tha Very good storytelling science. Zak argues, with empirical evidence, that a surge of oxytocin in our body is enough to transform us in more trusty persons, to believe more in the others, to feel empathic for others. Oxytocin acts upon our empathy through the serotonin and dopamine, the two molecules responsible for our internal mood system. The relevance of this finding, is that oxytocin doesn't act per se, our body can be full of it, and have no effect, because it only acts upon our system when there's a surge of it on our brain.

That's why you cannot create a drug based on it, only if you could inject it directly on the brain. So to make the surge happen Zak talks about some actions you can do, the most easy one, and the one for what Zak became known, is to hug people. When you hug for real someone, your body reacts injecting oxytocin into the system, making you feel more trusty toward the others, and consequently more happy throughout the day.

He intended to draw a correlation between trust, happiness and morality; citing all could be increased with a single hormone - oxytocin. It is highly doubtful though that a moral person can be a happy person, as a psychopath who gets a kick happiness from killing but is certainly not moral in the eyes of the society. A person who thinks twice about helping a stranger trust is not necessarily a bad person immoral , he just wants to ensure the safety of himself as well taking measures from be He intended to draw a correlation between trust, happiness and morality; citing all could be increased with a single hormone - oxytocin.

A person who thinks twice about helping a stranger trust is not necessarily a bad person immoral , he just wants to ensure the safety of himself as well taking measures from becoming a victim of fraud. However, high trust did correspond to high happiness which was common in religious people but it can be argued that this happiness or high is an illusion, as the spike increase in oxytocin can also be observed by those who have taken euphoric drugs like ecstasy.

A good attempt to simplify the morality in humans but alas contains many contradictions and gaping questions to the actual relationship between the hormone and morality per se. Nov 27, Chuck rated it it was amazing Shelves: psychology. This is an excellent book. It is easy to read and understand. It helps to understand the research that Dr. Paul Zak has done on Oxytocin, a chemical that is in our blood and affects our behavior.

He demonstrates how a surge in this chemical affects how we trust others. He states that something as simple as a hug increases ones feeling of happiness, love, and trust. It not only increases the trust between individuals, but can increase trust between different "tribes" and different nations. Makes m This is an excellent book.

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Makes me think that all Congressional sessions should begin, not with prayer by a chaplain, but by all people who are "across the aisle" crossing the aisle to give hugs to those on the other side. I think if you hugged someone and if you have gotten your hit of Oxytocin, it might go far in changing the political climate in Washington. Hey, it might work and it doesn't increase our taxes one cent. Jun 06, Juli rated it really liked it. The most interesting and easiest to follow section of the book was the last chapter.

Most of the earlier sections are written like a brain dump - randomly ordered details printed in the order in which they occurred to the author, making the reading tedious at best. View 1 comment. Jul 19, Mark rated it it was amazing. Probably the most interesting book I've read all year.

The author's assertions in areas outside of his immediate expertise are sometimes painfully over-generalized and silly, but the core work is fascinating. Oct 24, YHC rated it liked it. This book is written in a very readable way, means no medical terms to confuse you. It surrounded by 2 hormones: Oxytocin and testosterone. Oxytocin plays a very important role on human's empathy and love affection. I have learned that a father of a new born baby would have a lot more oxytocin in their blood and the testosterone would drop a lot.

This would last for long as long as they keep staying with their kids. In this book, it brought up a fun experiment that oxytocin could be used as "mag This book is written in a very readable way, means no medical terms to confuse you. In this book, it brought up a fun experiment that oxytocin could be used as "magic loyal hormone", it could make a male become deeply in love with his partner and never cheats. So many women are asking if this product could be on market so they would spray on their husbands.. Another fact about human body, since testosterone is male hormone but also exists in female, it leads men to be aggressive, adventurous, impulsive, suspicious on others.

Before female's ovulation, her testosterone level is the highest, and this is the wonder of nature. To bear a baby is a lot of time and energy, she needs to be careful and cautious to choose the right "father". Testosterone made her not so easily to trust on "sweet talkers". Children who were neglected and abused during the childhood are failed to produce oxytocin, means they simply can not feel the pain from others, but some would lie and fake they do tho MRI would show the truth Then Zak brought up religious mind seems to give believers peace of mind and the stability of society, he doesn't agree on R.

Dawkins' totally denial the function of religions. I personally think religion should be kept as personal choice and no one should be forced to accept, except i think churches and temples should also pay the tax, to be fair! The ending is a bit weak that Zak pointed out how to be in a happy nation: human connection, education, social welfare Aug 16, Carter rated it liked it.

I want to say this book was ok because I distinctly remember enjoying parts of it but for the life of me it was just not very memorable. This may not necessarily be a reflection of the content of the book. I read it during a very busy month and primarily in bed right before going to sleep.


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From what I do recall, the book presented what I would describe as a pop psych style introduction to Zak's research. I did read several reviews of the book, most of which complained about the seeming lack of a I want to say this book was ok because I distinctly remember enjoying parts of it but for the life of me it was just not very memorable.

The Moral Molecule : Paul J. Zak :

I did read several reviews of the book, most of which complained about the seeming lack of appropriate scientific inquiry and method to his research. Also, some of the best research has been born of personal experiments to pre-test ideas. So in regard to comments about his self-experimentation, I say any scientist who is willing to self-test is demonstrating passion if nothing else. And that is the one thing that unequivocally stood out for me in his writing, his passion for the subject matter. So while I did not necessarily gain a lot of take-away from this book, I did enjoy sharing in his journey.

I also appreciated the last chapter wherein he applies his research to practical and worldly considerations. He did a beautiful job of summarizing and concluding the book. Apr 04, Dan Pendergrass rated it it was amazing. Well at one point I was going to go with three stars, as it felt like he was going to tout Oxytocin as a panacea.

However, eventually he got into the counterbalance with testosterone and more importantly the feedback between neurophysiology and psychosocial development that can cause different behaviors to the same stimulus. I do think the title should have been something more along the line of "The Philosophy of the Moral Molecule and Mankind's Trust based Societies".

It was very eclectic and n Well at one point I was going to go with three stars, as it felt like he was going to tout Oxytocin as a panacea. It was very eclectic and not really a book about any one particular thing so much as it was about how we react to our world and how it changes our relationships with others.

ISBN 13: 9780552164610

All this from an Economic, Religious, Philosophical and Neurobiology perspective. Oxytocin is just one aspect of an overall developmental, physiological and psychosocial tapestry of life that weaves a pattern of health and well being or sickness and misery. It does help to understand that we should try to look for markers in others behavior that show whether they are in control of their faculties or not, so at least we aren't made vulnerable to Psychopaths. Outside of that we need to try and be more tolerant of each other, for mutual benefit.

This is a Good Read. Mar 02, Eleanor Cowan rated it it was ok. I know that chemical adjustments, say in the form of anti-depression meds, are extremely helpful to innocent sufferers of terrible depression that, unasked for, invades them. I also believe that we make moral choices ungoverned by the measure of peptides each of us has in our chemical storehouse. Many highly moral people mentally master their impulses and take the high road independent of their chemistry. Eleanor Cowan, Author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and I know that chemical adjustments, say in the form of anti-depression meds, are extremely helpful to innocent sufferers of terrible depression that, unasked for, invades them.

I enjoyed this book much more than I expected I would. Initially, I was skeptical about how the myriad of human behaviors could be attributed to a few chemicals. But minus that, this book proposes an interesting theory and a good snap shot of evolutionary behaviors. Am happy I picked up this read. Made it to almost halfway. The pseudoscience is strong with this one. An exemplar of the hyperbolic TED-era of pop science. Jan 30, Lois rated it really liked it. Read it! It won't change your life but it's super interesting. May 12, Eric rated it liked it. Good introduction to oxytocin's effects on human behavior.

Oct 17, Douglas rated it it was ok. Some good information. Too many first person ramblings about his research. Oct 08, Bob Nichols rated it liked it. Is this product missing categories? Add more categories. Review This Product.

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If we have a natural impulse to empathise and care for each other, why are there psychopaths? Neuroscientist and economist Paul Zak has spent 10 years researching to answer these questions and discover the chemical driver of our behaviour. His research has led him from a 'vampire' wedding in Devon to the jungle of Papua New Guinea and from the US military to a Buddhist monastory. Detective story, adventure and scientific discovery rolled into one, "The Moral Molecule" is a brilliant read: compulsively entertaining and potentially life-changing.

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