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We remember the admonition of our mothers: “Treat others as you want them to treat you.” But what if being nice was something we were inclined by nature to do anyway? Renowned neuroscientist Donald Pfaff upends our entire understanding of ethics and social contracts with an intriguing proposition: the Golden Rule is hardwired into the human brain.
Pfaff, the researcher who first discovered the connections between specific brain circuits and certain behaviors, contends that the basic ethics governing our everyday lives can be traced directly to brain circuitry. Writing with popular science journalist Sandra J. Ackerman, he explains in this clear and concise account how specific brain signals induce us to consider our actions as if they were directed at ourselves—and subsequently lead us to treat others as we wish to be treated. Brain hormones are a part of this complicated process, and The Neuroscience of Fair Play discusses how brain hormones can catalyze behaviors with moral implications in such areas as self-sacrifice, parental love, friendship, and violent aggression.
Drawing on his own research and other recent studies in brain science, Pfaff offers a thought-provoking hypothesis for why certain ethical codes and ideas have remained constant across human societies and cultures throughout the world and over the centuries of history. An unprecedented and provocative investigation, The Neuroscience of Fair Play offers a new perspective on the increasingly important intersection of neuroscience and ethics.