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New finding offers neurological support for Adam Smith's 'theories of morality'

(New York University) The part of the brain we use when engaging in egalitarian behavior may also be linked to a larger sense of morality, researchers have found. Their conclusions, which offer scientific support for Adam Smith's theories of morality, are based on experimental research published [recently]…
The researchers found that these two measures of egalitarian preferences were significantly associated with activations in the insular cortex, but not with the vmPFC.
This particular result is a potentially profound one as the insular cortex is also the part of the brain that processes the relationship of the individual with respect to her or his environment. In other words, egalitarian behavior may not exist in isolation, neurologically speaking, but, rather, be part of a larger process that stems from altruism and a sense of the larger social good.
Adam Smith, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, expressed this perspective in his 18th-century essay.
"Adam Smith contended that moral sentiments like egalitarianism derived from a 'fellow-feeling' that would increase with our level of sympathy for others, predicting not merely aversion to inequity, but also our propensity to engage in egalitarian behaviors," the researchers wrote. "The evidence here supports such an interpretation—our results suggest that it is the brain mechanisms involved in experiencing the emotional and social states of self and others that appear to be driving egalitarian behaviors. This conclusion is consistent with a broader view of the insular cortex as a neural substrate that processes the relationship of the individual with respect to his or her environment."
Community: Adam Smith never said that promoting selfishness is good for humanity, despite what today’s right wingers would have you believe. After all, he was a moralist before he created economics.
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