The Neuroscience of Adam Smith’s ‘Theories of Morality’

Adam Smith“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. Via ScienceDaily:

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 in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, coming seven months after the start of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which has been aimed at addressing income inequality, was conducted by researchers from: New York University’s Wilf Family Department of Politics; the University of Toronto; the University of California, San Diego; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Previous scholarship has established that two areas of the brain are active when we behave in an egalitarian manner — the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and the insular cortex, which are two neurological regions previously shown to be related to social preferences such as altruism, reciprocity, fairness, and aversion to inequality. Less clear, however, is how these parts of the brain may also be connected to egalitarian behavior in a group setting…

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7 Comments on "The Neuroscience of Adam Smith’s ‘Theories of Morality’"

  1. Bass Clarinet | Apr 13, 2012 at 10:40 am |

    OMFG! An admission that Adam Smith was correct on Disinfo!  How shocking! Is the apocalypse upon us?

    • Liam_McGonagle | Apr 13, 2012 at 11:57 am |

      The only thing more shocking would be for economic neoliberals to admit they never understood Adam Smith all along.

    •  Wow, your thinking is so black and white you can only understand the post as an “admission?”

      No apocalypse, just your conception of Disinfo as being “Marxist” being proven wrong again.

  2. Behold, the god of economics!!!

  3. OskarMatzerath | Apr 14, 2012 at 9:53 am |

    “The interest of the dealers however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public…The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the utmost scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public, and who accordingly have upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it”
    Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

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