The Moral MoleculeAugust 1, 2012
Why are some of us caring and some of us cruel, some generous and some greedy? Dr. Paul J. Zak has recently published the book, The Moral Molecule, with the basis of what he believes will become known as the new science of morality. This new understanding may give us insight into how it could be used to create a more virtuous society.
The book shares research that has been done over the past decade by Dr. Zak and suggests that a chemical messenger called oxytocin accounts for the reason why some people give freely of themselves and others are without empathy, why some people cheat and steal and others you can trust with your life, why some husbands are more faithful than others, and why women tend to be nicer and more generous than men. In our blood and in the brain, oxytocin appears to be the chemical elixir that creates bonds of trust not just in our intimate relationships but also in our business dealings, in politics and in society at large.
According to Dr. Zak, to trigger this “moral molecule,” all you have to do is give someone a sign of trust. When one person extends himself to another in a trusting way—by, say, giving money—the person being trusted experiences a surge in oxytocin that makes her less likely to hold back and less likely to cheat. Which is another way of saying that the feeling of being trusted makes a person more…trustworthy. Which, over time, makes other people more inclined to trust.
There are several suggested ways to cause oxytocin release in others. Some of those are listed here:
- Go to the movies
- Soak in a hot tub with a friend
- Make music with someone
- Join a choir
- Give someone a massage
- Make someone smile by being silly
- Give someone a hug
- Share a meal
- Pet an animal
- Forgive someone who has wronged you
- Meditate or pray for 10 minutes focusing on compassion
- Surprise someone with a gift or card
By now, you probably can get the idea. Let your mind think of all the other ways you might increase your oxytocin.
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The caregivers were courteous and assiduous.