Thursday, January 13, 2011

Exploring the limits of altruism

Because we've always known, deep down in our hearts, that this is true, under the headline, "Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds":
Oxytocin has been described as the hormone of love. This tiny chemical, released from the hypothalamus region of the brain, gives rat mothers the urge to nurse their pups, keeps male prairie voles monogamous and, even more remarkable, makes people trust each other more.

Yes, you knew there had to be a catch. As oxytocin comes into sharper focus, its social radius of action turns out to have definite limits. The love and trust it promotes are not toward the world in general, just toward a person’s in-group. Oxytocin turns out to be the hormone of the clan, not of universal brotherhood. Psychologists trying to specify its role have now concluded it is the agent of ethnocentrism.

A principal author of the new take on oxytocin is Carsten K. W. De Dreu, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam. Reading the growing literature on the warm and cuddly effects of oxytocin, he decided on evolutionary principles that no one who placed unbounded trust in others could survive. Thus there must be limits on oxytocin’s ability to induce trust, he assumed, and he set out to define them.

In a report published last year in Science, based on experiments in which subjects distributed money, he and colleagues showed that doses of oxytocin made people more likely to favor the in-group at the expense of an out-group. With a new set of experiments in Tuesday’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he has extended his study to ethnic attitudes, using Muslims and Germans as the out-groups for his subjects, Dutch college students.
What does it mean that a chemical basis for ethnocentrism is embedded in the human brain? “In the ancestral environment it was very important for people to detect in others whether they had a long-term commitment to the group,” Dr. De Dreu said. “Ethnocentrism is a very basic part of humans, and it’s not something we can change by education. That doesn’t mean that the negative aspects of it should be taken for granted.”


  1. I just have a hard time giving in to the point where I can even acknowledge a "kindness" hormone. "It's all in their minds" would be my approach, even their belief that the heart exists separate.

  2. Altruism is defined as: the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others. However, humans are also selfish creatures by nature. True. Absolutely unselfish, altruism, is a myth. That there is a chemical in our brain that produces to encourage such acts of kindness isn't surprising. That a chemical component can be linked to the act of altruism actually negates what altruism is. It's not, in fact, a selfless act to give to others, it's a chemical response in order to achieve an internal reward from a persons own brain with warm fuzzy feelings. The acts that produce this chemical may have external benefit to others but really the primary reaper of the benefit is the so called altruist. It begs the question, can this still be considered altruism?

  3. The only effect oxytocin has on me is a desire for more sex. That could theoretically create some sort of dependency on the person who is sucking the nipples (quick, sure shot way to oxytocin). I don't see that happening though, given even a breast pump with some heat adjustment could do the same.

    To think that oxytocin made these people favor the in group at the expense of out group is far fetched. Out group was never favored, scratch them out. In group is favored because it's a well-known fact you can get much more out of a wo/man who is sexually satisfied.

  4. I get that warm fuzzy feeling you get, when I stab someone in the chest.

  5. You're all a bunch of pussies.

  6. ^ You're made of pussy

  7. Sociopaths and sex: neither straight nor gay

    Screw anyone

    Sociopaths are hard-wired for sex. They have an excessive need for stimulation, excitement and sensation. They also have no fear and no inhibitions. From a sexual perspective, that means a voracious appetite and anything goes.

    Dr. Liane Leedom writes that sociopaths only want two things. One of them is power. The other is sex.

    So when it comes to sexual orientation, sociopaths are neither straight nor gay. They’ll screw anyone.

    Men and women—who were involved in gay relationships with sociopaths. I asked several of them if they thought the sociopath was actually gay. They all agreed with my theory and said the sociopath was not gay.

    Sex with an agenda

    This does not mean, however, that sociopaths are out of control. On the contrary, to them, sex, and sexual orientation, is just something to be used in order to achieve their objective, whatever that is.

    Sociopaths use people for sex, and use sex to get what they want. Anybody who suits their agenda will do.

    If it suits their agenda to be married with children, then that’s what they’ll do. But if sociopaths indulge in same-sex relationships, in my opinion, it’s because they’re sociopaths, not gay.

  8. Well, if we as humans can re-create "everything" through science enough to label "everything" as artificial, even what was pre-existing as unexplored, then I suppose we are all SO very bored with ourselves.

    Maybe if we were just a little bit more pre-occupied with sucking on nipples we'd be just fine and wouldn't have to contemplate bullshit so we can pretend we exist for a reason.

    I say go find the nearest preggo. Wasn't there a song a while back, Hooray for Boobies? Maybe we should all take some advice from it.

  9. God bless you. I bless you too.

  10. don't get near the iceJanuary 13, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Most psychopaths are male, although the reasons for this sex difference are unknown. Psychopathy seems to be present in both Western and non-Western cultures, including those that have had minimal exposure to media portrayals of the condition. In a 1976 study anthropologist Jane M. Murphy, then at Harvard University, found that an isolated group of Yupik-speaking Inuits near the Bering Strait had a term (kunlangeta) they used to describe “a man who … repeatedly lies and cheats and steals things and … takes sexual advantage of many women—someone who does not pay attention to reprimands and who is always being brought to the elders for punishment.” When Murphy asked an Inuit what the group would typically do with a kunlangeta, he replied, “Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking.”

  11. Regarding "don't get near the ice said"

    By pushing the kunlangeta off the ice, the society has rid itself of its most charming and entertaining member. Everyone wants to be seduced and manipulated at some level.

    Regarding oxytocin, when released it brings one into the present moment. The magic of its effect puts the meaningless of life at bay. Of course we crave more.

  12. I guess those Inuit are just as bad as the psycho, but stronger in number.

  13. I've been wondering if I just need more oxytocin. I think i'll pass.

  14. democracy... so, for survival we should keep breeding and increasing their numbers. the trouble is we think of children as nuisance when it's ours.

  15. Well Kunlangeta, you know what they say about psychos and instincts having such control over impulses. In order to preserve ourselves.... we should breed until there's no food left to sustain the life we bred.

    I guess it's a game until then :)

    Feel free to join the bandwagon at any time. I don't really think the opposing faction will care too much, if at all.

  16. regarding altruism, it's about putting yourself in someone else's shoes or wearing someone else's skin! haha.
    I think altruism can be when you feed off of someone else's happiness and comfort and feel it with them, or for them. This does exist. I also agree that it has a quid-pro-quo element at times, but the conscious mind is rarely engaged in this process. (what makes something 'true' altruism anyway? when it doesn't make the altruist feel pleasure? I do this a lot. Pleasure is not the desired outcome. Rather, empathy is what moves you to act). Whatever you think empathy is for, well, we know a lot about that but certainly not everything...

    Some people have more than others and this has been studied, and the pleasure centre in the brain is not all that's being activated either.

    Personally, I just don't like the cynicism around it. It suggests that people are self-decieving, or deceiving others when they are altruistic. This, I have a problem with.

    I'm capable of being overtly selfish too. I just don't like the idea that altruism is an act, or something that requires reciprocation, or something that simply gives pleasure to the altruist. Sometimes it gives no pleasure at all.

    It's not a straightforward topic and scientists find it difficult to study. As with the sociopath who behaves altruistically at times, so does the altruist behave sociopathically at times. The general bulk of their behaviour still stands, and I can assure you an act is not easy to keep up.
    I guess i'm just questioning the validity in suggesting everything can be boiled down to pure self-serving behaviour. But then, maybe that's the altruist in me talking.

  17. oh piss, just lost my long post. I really should know better by now.
    Well, it was on altruism and it shall reappear tomorrow or hopefully sooner.

  18. oh yay, it's returned! i think

  19. Sociopathic - Deviant.
    Narcissistic - Immature.
    Psychopathic - Perverse.
    Sadistic - Defective & perverse.

  20. Borderline - fucked.

  21. Sociopathic - Prick.
    Narcissistic - Douche.
    Psychopathic - Monster.
    Sadistic - Sick fuck!!

  22. Anons - headache

  23. Don't wave at me with that hand.

  24. *Jumps on Misanthrope, wrestles him to the ground.* Hugs, Misanthrope! Let's hate humanity together. Equally, in a non-ethnocentric way.

    (But only for the next five minutes or so, since my attention span is short.)

  25. 'Psychologists have now concluded it is the agent of ethnocentricism'? Really? Which psychologists and how many?

    It seems that a lot of assumptions are being made about the role of one single hormone in a very complex social problem, one that seems to be based more upon recognition and familiarity than any single knee-jerk neurological influence.

    Of course individual, automatic empathetic reactions have limitations, M.E. But I'm not sure that actually means much here, seeing as this study focuses on one hormone only, not on the complex web of triggers that causes empaths to act altruistically.

  26. The last three blog posts only seem to have a peripheral relationship to sociopathy, and little effort was made to in order to elucidate such a relationship.

  27. In the end, everyone is self serving, the kind of people who give without wanting to receive are very rare these days, and even when those people are kind to another day want their supply, love affection etc, it's the same thing as the narc or sociopath that wants money and power, there is no such thing as loyalty, you will notice that even the greatest and most powerful can crumble in a matter of weeks.

  28. When others are smiling I naturally smile and feel happy, so it's out of selfish (subconsciously) interest that I want them to smile and do my part.

    If I would naturally feel better when they are crying the chances are I'd try to make them cry.

    The coin is flipped for a socio. Next time while with my socio sister I'll start crying and give her the best time of her life.

    The other day on the phone I did a little and she quickly got very animated and started mimicking while you could tell her happiness about the whole little empath-socio sisters bonding. I really love her for thpse cherished moments, wouldn't you?

    At the time, she was telling me she does not like people, her smiles are always fake, and she does not understand why I like people. I started crying while telling her that I never felt understood by anyone anyways. She totally bought this and stopped attacking me, lol.

  29. Not mimicking them while they are crying.. Tough shit for a dentist. Got the best profession for my needs. All that talk about lawyers, business and politics guys. None here, right?

  30. I like you sociopaths, i admire the fact that you don't give a shit, I'm not a sociopath, but i think today's world is filled with histrionic fools and drama queens.

  31. Wheres PMS and Misanthrope and UKan and all those other dudes?

  32. I don't think this is a subject we have a lot of experience in.
    I guess I can shoot down the studies like Elinor did so I can sound smarter than a doctor, but alas I have no such aspirations.

  33. PMS has been absent for a while, maybe he's in jail.

  34. Here is a better topic:
    "The criminal syndicates operating in South Africa are highly organized and use advanced technologies. They are very well coordinated," Joseph Okori, African rhino program manager for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said in a prepared statement. "This is not typical poaching."

    Excessive rhino poaching... UKan, do you like that?

  35. I was at the gun range teaching my girl how to shoot.
    I noticed he's been missing, but a lot of people come on for a year and leave when they found what they are looking for. If I go to jail ill write you guys a letter through my girl.

  36. No but my grandfather was a poacher. He didn't poach endangered species. He poached because in my country the hunting grounds were (and still in some cases are) owned by foriegn nobles. There is a lot of funny stories of him running from the sherriff with his fish, or game that he caught.

  37. I'm not trying to shoot down the studies, UKan. I read about the studies, and they seem pretty sound (even though the inferences they draw are contested by other neurologists) but the idea presented by the article is a broad over-generalization of the results of those studies.

    Who came up with the title of the article, for instance? Are the journalists actually trying to equate the complexity of compassionate behavior with a single hormone that is attached to very specific impulses?

  38. FBI agent and profiler Robert Ressler has stated: There is something that science has not yet recognized within these people and that is the element of pure evil.

  39. Don't tell me you don't struggle with evil. Our only difference is that I let it be.

  40. Jeffrey Dahmer seemed pretty sloppy. He didn't do a great job of hiding his misdeeds. But then, I guess that wasn't really the point. I guess when the impulse kicks in...everything goes to pot.

  41. I haven't poached any endangered species but I've been chased a few times by park rangers and aids, heh. How dare you catch this common fish in a protected area! The nerve :P Good times.

    I don't know much about this subject, either, and frankly it doesn't much interest me. Fishing stories on the other hand, I'm down. I have a lot of those if anyone wants to share.

    Oh, and fuck altruism. Cheers.

  42. Whaa whaa woh wah whaa wah woh.

  43. UKan, do you have an email address you don't mind sharing? If anyone you should have a blog, but it is indeed work and a certain personality type to bother to post something everyday, unless of course ME is populating some pages this way for his personal benefit.

  44. Generalissimo DarlingJanuary 15, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Altruism is for girls and sodomites. So is fishing. Sounds like a party to me.

    Ha @scurt. Everyone has a sexual preference. Like your mother has me.
    And "sociopath" is just a buzzword that puts mentally defective serial criminals and highly successful people into the same little corner to be killed by firing squad. Quit using it.

    I'm utterly altruistic. Pretty much everything I do, I do for the benefit of others. Like your mother.


Comments on posts over 14 days are SPAM filtered and may not show up right away or at all.

Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies


Comments are unmoderated. Blog owner is not responsible for third party content. By leaving comments on the blog, commenters give license to the blog owner to reprint attributed comments in any form.