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If you read my review for the previous book for this couple, Selfish, then you Selfless is book 3 of the Selfish Series and the author ended it with a freakin.
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This theory is supported by extensive evidence in the literature of preferential treatment of kin Madsen et al. One question is how kin-preference is identified and conferred by an organism. Kin-preference may be a function of the extensive time spent with and proximity to the relative as opposed to an ability to identify genetic relatedness, as argued by cases of cronyism and altruistic preference for close friendships Stewart-Williams, Thus, the importance of passing to kin the learned behaviors promoting culturally selected traits of compassion may counterbalance the selective value of genes promoting extreme selfish behavior Bell et al.

The concept of altruism as an enhanced parental instinct relies on the evolution of several factors in both the altruist and the recipient: signaling of kinship status and need for compassion, recognition by kin of the signals, and donation-behavior by the kin Sinervo et al. While this behavioral signaling mechanism may underlie parental instinct and compassion which is probabilistically directed toward kin, it is possible that simple parental behaviors — such as offspring retrieval, sustenance and shelter sharing, and emotional comforting — are behavior patterns of signaling-recognition-action that have been enhanced by evolutionary mechanisms Preston, resulting in broader altruistic behavior from prosocial brains with greater capacity for receiving and passing on experience and acquired information.

And as recent studies have shown, parenting-associated prosocial helping behaviors not only enhance the survival of the offspring, but also promotes better health, slower decline in functioning levels and lower risk of mortality for care-givers Brown and Brown, Collectively, the evidence indicating prosocial altruistic capability provides for complex interactions that have come to form the foundation of our civil, societal interactions Matusall, Social interactions often extend not only to members of our families, but to other members of our own social species, and often to members of other domesticated species on which we depend for our survival and social well-being.

Human evolution, especially since the separation from the last common ancestor shared with the great apes, is posited to have been driven by bipartite hereditary processes involving genetic and neuron-based systems social and cultural heredity Gash and Deane, The development of large interactive social groups that share resources and work cooperatively toward accomplishing common goals distinguishes humans from the other great apes.

The survival and success of large cooperative societies requires most of their members to mute their innate selfish drives and strengthen their selfless behavior. Converging evidence that will be reviewed here strongly supports that complex combinations of genetic and neuronal factors, including parenting, underlie the spectrum of selfish—selfless behaviors. Given the gaps in knowledge in this multidisciplinary area of research, we propose the spectrum be initially plotted as an inverted U-shaped curve with the x -axis representing the range from extreme selfishness to extreme selflessness and the y -axis representing the percent population at each point Figure 1.

We also propose that the extreme selfishness end of the spectrum is exemplified by callous-uncaring psychopaths and the extreme selflessness end by zealous altruists that take extreme measures to help others. We hypothesize that the landscape and peak of the curve shifts for given populations based on social and cultural factors neuronal-based heredity and genetic makeup. Selfish—selfless spectrum. The spectrum of human behavior from extreme selfishness to extreme selflessness is plotted here as an inverted U-Shaped curve.

Social and cultural factors influencing perceptions are posited to shift the curve for individuals and populations to the left e. Illustrated by Matt Hazard. Differences in degrees of altruistic and prosocial behavior have long been noted between cultures. Furthermore, this difference was linked to a cultural difference between the groups, especially in family function. Prosocial children were correlated with families where the women contributed economically and where the children were assigned tasks within the home.

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Supporting these observations is a study by Eisenberg and Mussen that found that Mexican children, Hopi children, and Israeli children were more prosocial than middle-class American children Eisenberg and Mussen, Finally, Robarcheck and Robarcheck compared two cultures in environmentally similar conditions but with drastically different cultures, the cooperative Semai in the Malaysian rainforest and the individualistic and war-like Waorani from the Amazon Robarcheck and Robarcheck, The Semai people exhibit prosocial and altruistic behavior, whereas the Waorani behave selfishly and reportedly save themselves if faced with danger as opposed to helping members of their society or family.

Using the Price equation, researchers mathematically estimated that culture neuron-based heredity has more than one order of magnitude greater influence than genes on altruism and prosocial behavior at the population level Bell et al. Some studies have attempted to identify how the depth of social interactions an individual has is reflected in the gross anatomical structure of the human brain. For instance, a positive correlation has been recorded between the number of individuals a person regularly interacts with and the size of their amygdala bilaterally adjusted for total intracranial volume , but not the hippocampus.

This correlation also held true for the number of different social groups to which a person belongs, not just the number of friends with whom an individual interacts Bickart et al. The amygdala is responsible for many automatic processes that influence social cognition Adolphs, ranging from the more mundane such as fear, vigilance Whalen, and alertness Whalen, to the parsing and evaluation of facial features Adolphs et al. An interesting sub-population is political orientation, which is increasingly recognized as having a genetic as well as a social and cultural influence Kandler et al.

In these sub-populations we again see the role of the amygdala in making social-based snap judgments when presented with images of faces. Schreiber et al. These findings were supported in separate studies by Kanai et al. The ACC is involved in many executive level brain functions, including reward-based decision making, error detection, and conflict monitoring. This task activates the ACC. The ACC also may serve as an evaluative role after effortful error commission, producing emotional distress associated with the act of producing an error Bush et al. Thus, the ACC is thought to be responsible for adapting behavior in response to the production of errors Luu and Pederson, The perigenual region of the ACC may also play a role in modulating the reward mechanisms in a way perceived as gratitude at the relief of a stressor Fox et al.

As a part of the social species, these functions may be critical in maintaining alliances and raising offspring through a protracted stage of dependency.


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While undergoing fMRI the subjects were then asked to imitate faces that were displayed to them. The subjects who donated more money to low socio-economic players tended to exhibit greater levels of BOLD increases in fMRI in the left amygdala and also the left fusiform cortex which is a region responsible for facial processing and implicated in empathy.

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Kim et al. In individualistic European Americans a guanine G is more prevalent at this position, but in collectivist East Asians an adenine A is more common. Oxytocin also acts on the central nervous system for brain development and to regulate behavior including maternal behaviors such as infant response and protection, and other social behaviors including bonding, trusting, and encouraging generosity Yang et al. Nasally administered oxytocin reduces fear and anxiety Kirsch et al.

Some benefits of oxytocin beyond promoting positive social interactions include anti-inflammatory effects and indications for quicker wound healing Gouin et al. It is being investigated as a treatment for the social deficits of autism Dadds et al. Vasopressin has also been identified as a possible regulator of compassionate behavior. Human studies of individuals that exhibit strong sibling bonding Bachner-Melman et al. In terms of social behavior, central vasopressin receptors AVPR1a in the ventral pallidum of the prairie vole are necessary for pair bonding and partner selection Lim and Young, by activating the reward circuitry during mating Pitkow et al.

This and other central AVP receptors have been shown to play critical roles in social recognition and interpretation of social cues as well as related stress pathways in knockout mouse models Bielsky et al. In addition to the strong evidence in animal studies that oxytocin and vasopressin are two neurohormones which play important roles in social behavior and the resultant reward and stress pathways that support those behaviors, there is increasing research supporting the hypothesis that genetic variants of OXTR and AVPR1a are predictive of humans displaying greater degrees of altruistic, empathic and compassionate behavior traits within population sub-groups.

For example, Poulin et al. Callous-unemotional criminal psychopaths epitomize extreme antisocial behavior.

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These individuals are characterized by aggression and violence with a long criminal record and frequent incarceration. Their core behavioral pattern of pervasively violating the rights of others without remorse can begin as early as 3 years of age and continue into adulthood Hare, ; Gao and Raine, ; APA, Serial killers fall into this category. However, by maintaining an outwardly normal persona, they can often evade detection and arrest for periods running into decades.

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The spectrum of personality disorders classified as psychopathic is much broader than those on the extremist criminal end. Psychopaths can be separated into two groups — unsuccessful and successful Gao and Raine, The unsuccessful are the callous-uncaring criminals. Successful psychopaths are a more diverse group ranging from ruthless con artists to leading statesmen Dutton, Both unsuccessful and successful psychopaths can exhibit varying combinations of traits, which collectively predict their behavioral patterns.

With the legal and societal problems created by criminal psychopaths, most research has been focused on defining their psychological features and neurobiology. The current criteria for determining if someone is a criminal psychopath is the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised Hare, ; Babiak and Hare, , which is crafted for clinical and legal use, emphasizing antisocial and criminal behaviors. TABLE 1. As Hare developed his PCL-R as a research tool based largely on his experience in analyzing criminals, its use more broadly in formulating public policy, in business and in conducting unbiased social research is controversial Skeem et al.

Also, it has raised a major scientific issue.

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Is psychopathy a monolithic disorder qualitative , or is it a syndrome with multiple interacting factors determining the extent and phenotypic expression quantitative? To more fully evaluate the hypothesis of multiple interacting factors, an alternate rating scale to the PCL-R has been developed, the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised PPI-R, see Table 2 designed and validated to measure more affective and interpersonal traits and to be used in both criminal and non-criminal populations without a priori assumptions of antisocial and criminal behavior Skeem et al.

TABLE 2. PPI-R: psychopathy positive and negative features Skeem et al. While the two different rating scales overlap in measures such as meanness e. While all unsuccessful psychopaths are by definition criminals, as mentioned before, successful psychopaths on the PPI-R scale are found in politics, medicine and business. As successful psychopaths can intelligently conceal their psychopathic traits, their number in the population is difficult to detect.

In one large population survey, the prevalence of successful i. In the professional world of politicians, businessmen, doctors and lawyers, the number may be much higher. While some professionals with psychopathic traits are criminals, others benefit the social order by boldly leading changes needed for cultures to adapt to ever changing environmental, economic, and political conditions. Dysfunctional emotional processing is a defining feature of psychopathy Anderson et al. Meta-analyses of 26 studies found emotional recognition of facial expressions and vocal cues was significantly impaired in young and adult psychopaths for all of the basic emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise Dawel et al.

Such blunted emotions affect perceptions, thought processes and actions toward others, fostering both boldness and lack of remorse. Dysfunctional emotions also affect another trait of criminal psychopaths — deeply flawed reasoning, including moral judgment. Three of the sites in the brain responsible for criminal psychopathic behavior are also principal components of the neural circuitry for normal social-emotional processing: the prefrontal cortex PFC , amygdala , and hypothalamus Figure 2.

Psychopathic behavior resulting from injury or disease implicates the ventromedial PFC vmPFC as a critical node for prosocial behavior; its dysfunction resulting in antisocial behavior Anderson et al.


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The enlarged prefrontal cortex is the neocortical i. Like most neural assemblages in the brain, it is a two-way street with amygdaloidal neurons sending fibers to the cerebral cortex. The amygdala in turn is richly interconnected with the hypothalamus Herman, , another evolutionarily ancient brain region that regulates homeostasis and autonomic nervous system activity Jansen et al. Prefrontal cortex-amygdala-hypothalamic circuitry. The prefrontal cortex-amygdala-hypothalamus axis has a pivotal role in social-emotional processing.

Developmental disorders and injuries effecting its neural assemblages and circuitry can lead to antisocial behaviors characterizing psychopathy. A In this parasagittal view of the human brain, the spatial relationships and neural connectivity between the prefrontal cortex PFC , amygdala Amy , and hypothalamus Hyp are illustrated. Note the central role of the amygdala in the circuitry linking the prefrontal cortex and hypothalamus in the emotional processing network.

Also see its intimate integration of the amygdala with the head of the hippocampus Hip , which initiates and consolidates cognitive memory and learning processes in the brain. Neurons in the hypothalamus terminating in the pituitary release oxytocin OT , vasopressin VP and adrenocorticotropic hormone ACTH into the systemic circulation. The sympathetic nervous system is fully activated via the hypothalamus, including by a direct neural projection to the adrenal medulla stimulating release of epinephrine EPI, adrenalin and norepinephrine NEP, noradrenalin into the blood stream.

The physiological responses include hyperarousal, focused vision, increased heart rate and blood pressure, blood shunted to the muscles, and suppression of digestion and appetite. The association between medial prefrontal cortex PFC dysfunction and psychopathic behavioral features including lack of empathy and remorse, dishonesty, and poor planning and decision-making skills, has been extensively documented since the index case of Phineas T.

Gage in Harlow, ; Damasio et al. Since then, there has been an abundance of research supporting the role of the PFC in social processing and behavior regulation Anderson et al. In individuals with pronounced conduct control problems, numerous studies have shown the amygdala is smaller along with less gray matter volume in the frontal and temporal cortices Yang et al. Hypoactive amygdala responses to stimuli of others in distress are characteristic of children with the callous-unemotional trait and associated with aggressive behavior Lozier et al.

Humans with bilateral amygdala lesions have impaired learning of fear and responding to eminent danger Bach et al. Bilateral amygdala lesions in rhesus monkeys have significantly blunted stress responses Raper et al. The hypothalamus is intimately involved as the control center of the brain for autonomic responses and regulation of sex hormones and the secretion of oxytocin, cortisol, and vasopressin into the bloodstream. Low oxytocin levels have been linked with callous-unemotional scores in adolescents Levy et al. Supporting this link are other studies indicating that inactivation of the oxytocin receptor by DNA methylation is correlated with an increased risk of callous-unemotional traits Cecil et al.

Children and adolescents with the callous-unemotional trait exhibit reduced cortisol response von Polier et al. As discussed earlier, oxytocin and vasopressin are two neurohormones that have essential roles in social behavior and the resultant reward and stress pathways that support those behaviors Poulin et al.