Read The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity by Paul J. Zak Online


A Revolution in the Science of Good and EvilWhy do some people give freely while others are cold hearted?Why do some people cheat and steal while others you can trust with your life?Why are some husbands more faithful than others and why do women tend to be more generous than men?Could they key to moral behaviour lie with a single molecule?From the bucolic English countrysA Revolution in the Science of Good and EvilWhy do some people give freely while others are cold hearted?Why do some people cheat and steal while others you can trust with your life?Why are some husbands more faithful than others and why do women tend to be more generous than men?Could they key to moral behaviour lie with a single molecule?From the bucolic English countryside to the highlands of Papua New Guinea, from labs in Switzerland to his campus in Southern California, Dr. Paul Zak recounts his extraordinary stories and sets out, for the first time, his revolutionary theory of moral behavior. Accessible and electrifying, The Moral Molecule reveals nothing less than the origins of our most human qualities empathy, happiness, and the kindness of strangers. ...

Title : The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780525952817
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity Reviews

  • Brian Clegg
    2019-04-03 01:48

    You wait years for a book on empathy and two come out within days. But the contrast with Simon Baron-Cohen's book could not be greater. The Moral Molecule is popular science as rumbustious personal story telling - it is a highly enjoyable exploration of Paul Zak's journey from economist to neurobiologist and of his almost obsessive interest in the molecule oxytocin and its influence on trust and empathy - in effect on human goodness.Although oxytocin is the star, this is a tale of two molecules, with testosterone in the black hat to oxytocin's white. Testosterone it seems doesn't just counter oxytocin's beneficial effects, it encourages us towards behaviour that could be considered evil - though to be fair to Zak things are nowhere near so black and white in reality: we need both for different reasons. But Zak makes a wonderful fist of selling the benefits of the trust and empathy that arise from an oxytocin high (even though I'm not sure I'm sold on Zak's enthusiasm for hugs).The final part of the book is a bit of a let down. Up to then it has been a romp of a story with lots of experiments and their outcomes. For the final section it settles down to Zak's analysis of the likes of religion and business with an 'oxytocin rules' hat on. Still interesting, but much less engaging.I really thought for the first few pages this would be one of those wince-making books where a scientist features himself as star, but actually it's one of the best popular science books I've read this year. Recommended.Review originally published on and reproduced with permission

  • Darcy
    2019-03-28 00:42

    This was one of the worst psychology books I've ever read (though I have not read many). I had a hard time taking Zak seriously. He writes in an almost too casual way, and his experiments seem faulty. Instead of doing most of his research in contained environments with multiple subjects, he does most of it on himself at random times. It seems as though he already carries a lot of experimenter’s bias because he writes as though he is trying to prove current stereotypes about the sexes rather than approach the topic with a clean slate. Also, it bothers me a bit that he does not seem to understand the difference between sex and gender, and writes with a very heteronormative view as a result (gender is not “male and female” – those are terms that signify biological sex). Furthermore, he does not directly cite the sources of some of the statistics he presents, such as his claim that young men have twice as much testosterone as older men (pp.78). I realize that this book falls into the “pop science” category, and is aimed more toward the general public, but that does not excuse him from properly citing his statistics. However, I did enjoy reading about the studies he presents from other researchers, and found them very interesting.

  • Gary Schechner
    2019-03-31 21:21

    Interesting read and while i enjoyed the science, I am a bit suspect of the methodology. However, I do believe in the power of a hug as Zak suggests.

  • Justin
    2019-04-12 20:21

    The power of hugs!Well, that’s the short version, anyway. In fact, I got to meet Paul Zak at a panel, and the first thing he did was give me a hug. So, the man definitely walks his talk.This is another entry in the recently hot pop-neuroscience genre of nonfiction. Despite the backlash to neuroscience and the backlash to the backlash, etc., I’ve always enjoyed these books for what they offer: revelations of sometimes rigorous, sometimes sloppy, and always fascinating work on how the brain actually works, and various levels of speculation on what that might mean for how we understand human behavior. This particular book has a narrow focus: oxytocin, the hormone responsible for parental bonding and post-coital glow. Zak aggressively pursues the thesis that oxytocin is responsible not only for feelings of well-being in individuals, but in entire societies. He cites variations on a single exercise/study that he has conducted in different environments to show how profoundly oxytocin affects levels of generosity and trust. He then debunks the notion of oxytocin as a “miracle drug” (citing a particularly egregious example of an infomercial that deigned to use his research as marketing material), and shows how easily oxytocin levels can be manipulated (through a hug, for example, or through the simple act of being trusted). He then spins this research off into a potentially wider arena by linking it to his original field: economics. The book ends on some pretty high-minded notions of oxytocin’s potential role in religion, geopolitics, and humanity in general.I tend to approach neuroscience books with an open mind and an accepting attitude, but this one still set off my internal skeptic alarm. My biggest issues were with the repetition of a single experiment in nearly all of the presented research, and the somewhat evangelical tone of how fundamentally important the results were (“yes, my friends, all of human morality can be distilled into this single miracle chemical!”). Still, Zak offers a lot of food for thought, especially on how oxytocin operates in the presence of interfering factors such as testosterone and trauma. The book is relatively bite-sized, so even in the presence of a questionable conclusion or two it’s a quick and engaging read. Best of all, Zak has a casual writing style that reads well for the layperson (though I really wish he would stop incorrectly using the idiom “begged the question”).All told, an interesting look at what oxytocin is, and some interesting ideas on what understanding and harnessing it could mean.

  • Paige
    2019-03-31 18:30

    It feels like it's been forever since I posted a book review... I have been so busy with other things and when I do get a break my focus has been on stuff besides reading. :(Anyway, this book was nothing spectacular. I learned something, which is why it got the stars it did. Apparently this guy writes for Psychology Today, which is a publication that I have no great respect for. If I'd known that when I picked it up at the library, I probably wouldn't have bothered. Alas it sounded interesting.Was it? Well, yes and no. I feel like this subject could have been totally awesome. The writing style was accessible, but seemed to lack depth. Some of the conclusions he came to didn't seem all that well supported to me (it will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my views that several of these conclusions focused on sex & gender)... I would imagine (hope) his actual research is a little more, er, scientific? I do have to register my disappointment & anger with yet another "privileged white male scientist goes to Papua New Guinea; complains about yams, mud, and body odor" story that surfaced in this book. This one even included jokes about cannibalism. Mr. Zak: kindly plz don't... It ended with "so people in Papua New Guinea also have the same biologically wired hormone responses that we Westerners do!!" Even though he'd already noted that all mammals have oxytocin... What next? Do Papua New Guineans also have red blood and four chambered hearts? Might they even have...emotions?!!? Qu'est-ce que c'est?!?! I knocked off a star for that shit.

  • Lindsay Nixon
    2019-04-04 01:27

    This book has been so fascinating, covering far more than I expected and it challenged several lifelong beliefs I had. For example, I believed we would have no morality without religion--not that you have to be religious to be moral, but that morality was conceptualized by religion. That is simply not the case. Our DNA is programed for us to act in ways we socially define as "moral" because that is required for species survival. The beginning part about Oxycetocin was also very interesting. Zak has a 24-minute Ted talk (free on Youtube) that covers most of what is in this book and you can use it as a gauge if you want to dive deeper. One exception, he spends an incredible amount of time on Autism, which if you know someone who has autism, I strongly encourage you read that part of this book.

  • Ms.pegasus
    2019-04-04 19:21

    Paul Zak is an unusual combination: Economist and neuroscientist. His obsessive investigations would crossover into intrusiveness were he not so infectiously enthusiastic. He humorously refers to his studies as vampire economics. The opening chapter finds him at a wedding, drawing blood samples from the wedding party in order to quantify their increased oxytocin level (oxytocin being the “moral molecule” of the title). Does it deserve the epithet, or is this merely excessive “hype”?The scientific basis for his claim is a simple “Trust” game and its variants. A cohort is divided into Group A and Group B. Individuals in Group A are each given a sum of money, say $10. They volunteer to give a partner in Group B a portion of the $10 which is then tripled in amount to the recipient. The Group B recipient then volunteers an amount to reciprocate. He can opt to give all or nothing. Zak correlates the amounts given and reciprocated with starting and ending blood oxytocin levels in the subjects. In general, 90% of the Group A subjects elect to give; 95% of the Group B subjects choose to reciprocate. His measurements indicate a strong correlation between spike in oxytocin level and reciprocal giving. At this point, he summons arguments from evolutionary biology. Increases in oxytocin level faciliate increases in trust. Trust, in turn, facilitates sexual encounter, and thus broadens the opportunity for contributing to the overall gene pool. For example, in order to mate, the female lobster must trust sufficiently to abandon her shell when she mates. Trust is also a necessary component for cooperative socialization. The prairie vole, as opposed to the meadow vole, is part of an organized social colony. Prairie voles have more oxytocin receptors than their more independent cousins, the meadow voles.Zak is able to reduce complex scientific data into delightfully comprehensive chunks, and these are the parts of the book I enjoyed the most. He points out that the level of blood oxytocin is not the critical factor. There must be a spike from baseline to post-event (he stumbles upon this discovery in an experiment with psychologically traumatized subjects). Second, the oxytocin must be absorbed through receptors which are distributed in specific areas of the brain. The receptors, in turn, determine the release of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. A modulating effect occurs simultaneously. Contra-chemicals – testosterone, cortisol and epinephrine, can either inhibit the release of oxytocin or block the oxytocin receptors. A combination of testosterone and dopamine (induced by oxytocin) can induce a state of enjoyment over aggressive behavior. If the subgenual cortex is stimulated, judgment rather than empathy can be the dominant emotion. Some of the most intriguing observations concern spikes in testosterone during one of the “Trust” experiments. The testosterone correlated with an increase in the threshold amounts that subjects would consider as “acceptable” giving and reciprocation. Amounts below this threshold triggered rejection (punishment), even if it caused harm to both parties. He speculates on the relationship between empowerment and feelings of entitlement. A final set of experiments focus on the correlation between oxytocin spiking, generosity, and in-group behaviors. Speculative generalizations are this book's weakness. Zak suggests that autism may be linked to what he terms oxytocin deficiency disorder (potentially confusing, since ODD is referred to in the psychological literature as something completely different – Oppositional Defiant Disorder). He repeats the pop-psych conjecture that an increase in Aspergers Syndrome in the Silicon Valley is due to mating of ueber nerdy cyber geeks who themselves excel professionally because of their own asperger-like traits. This casual aside might fit into a speech to generate some humor, but in the context of the book, it feels like undisciplined thinking. An analysis of trust in the marketplace devolves into what felt to me like wishful thinking. “Greed is good” may have been repeatedly demonstrated to be bad for society, and its long-term outcomes. That fact, however, has not proven to be a corporate culture game changer. The individual is simultaneously a member of complex family configurations, multiple task and departmental employee groups, peer-based colleagues, a wider network of professionals, etc. Moral and immoral impulses can emanate from any one of these conflicting affiliations. The same holds for constructive versus destructive decisions, since constructive and moral are not identical. Zak is cognizant of these contradictions (experiments with religious and military based groups), but prefers optimistic inferences.Ultimately, much of my dissatisfaction stems from my own inclinations. I prefer precision. Examinations of chemical biofeedback and homeostasis feel much more convincing than the broader functionalist approach offered here. Zak's examination of the “biology that underlies market behavior” (p. 160) seems less rewarding than the traditional perspective of the social relations that underlie market behavior. I admit these are personal prejudices. In conclusion, I recommend MORAL MOLECULE as an interesting starting point for questions, particularly about market integration, but the answers he proposes felt unproven.

  • Nelson Zagalo
    2019-03-31 01:39

    Very good storytelling science. Paul Zak uses a coloquial approach to talk about his neurosciences discoveries, making it very easy for non specialist to grasp meanings and real implications of what has been discovered. Zak knows his works has been highly promoted by the media, thus in this book he does a very good work at debunking misconceptions about the easy solutions presented by the simplified media messages.Oxytocin is the molecule Zak talks about. Zak argues, with empirical evidence, that a surge of oxytocin in our body is enough to transform us in more trusty persons, to believe more in the others, to feel empathic for others. Oxytocin acts upon our empathy through the serotonin and dopamine, the two molecules responsible for our internal mood system. The relevance of this finding, is that oxytocin doesn't act per se, our body can be full of it, and have no effect, because it only acts upon our system when there's a surge of it on our brain. That's why you cannot create a drug based on it, only if you could inject it directly on the brain. So to make the surge happen Zak talks about some actions you can do, the most easy one, and the one for what Zak became known, is to hug people. When you hug for real someone, your body reacts injecting oxytocin into the system, making you feel more trusty toward the others, and consequently more happy throughout the day.

  • Chuck
    2019-04-02 02:26

    This is an excellent book. It is easy to read and understand. It helps to understand the research that Dr. Paul Zak has done on Oxytocin, a chemical that is in our blood and affects our behavior. He demonstrates how a surge in this chemical affects how we trust others. He states that something as simple as a hug increases ones feeling of happiness, love, and trust. It not only increases the trust between individuals, but can increase trust between different "tribes" and different nations.Makes me think that all Congressional sessions should begin, not with prayer by a chaplain, but by all people who are "across the aisle" crossing the aisle to give hugs to those on the other side. I think if you hugged someone and if you have gotten your hit of Oxytocin, it might go far in changing the political climate in Washington. Hey, it might work and it doesn't increase our taxes one cent.

  • Fu Sheng Wilson Wong
    2019-04-18 18:41

    He intended to draw a correlation between trust, happiness and morality; citing all could be increased with a single hormone - oxytocin. It is highly doubtful though that a moral person can be a happy person, as a psychopath who gets a kick (happiness) from killing but is certainly not moral in the eyes of the society. A person who thinks twice about helping a stranger (trust) is not necessarily a bad person (immoral), he just wants to ensure the safety of himself as well taking measures from becoming a victim of fraud. However, high trust did correspond to high happiness (which was common in religious people) but it can be argued that this happiness (or high) is an illusion, as the spike increase in oxytocin can also be observed by those who have taken euphoric drugs like ecstasy. A good attempt to simplify the morality in humans but alas contains many contradictions and gaping questions to the actual relationship between the hormone and morality per se.

  • Andrew Smith
    2019-04-14 23:36

    You sort of get the idea pretty quickly with this one, but the book's thesis - that human beings are predisposed to empathy and social behaviour - is so profound that the evidence is well worth hearing. Written in an easy, chatty style, I would give is three and a half stars as a read in itself, but six in terms of its importance. It will change the way you think about yourself and other people, and affect your own behaviour on a day to day basis.

  • Mark
    2019-04-02 21:32

    Probably the most interesting book I've read all year. The author's assertions in areas outside of his immediate expertise are sometimes painfully over-generalized and silly, but the core work is fascinating.

  • Juli
    2019-04-19 21:44

    The most interesting and easiest to follow section of the book was the last chapter. Most of the earlier sections are written like a brain dump - randomly ordered details printed in the order in which they occurred to the author, making the reading tedious at best.

  • YHC
    2019-04-10 01:23

    This book is written in a very readable way, means no medical terms to confuse you. It surrounded by 2 hormones: Oxytocin and testosterone. Oxytocin plays a very important role on human's empathy and love affection. I have learned that a father of a new born baby would have a lot more oxytocin in their blood and the testosterone would drop a lot. This would last for long as long as they keep staying with their kids. In this book, it brought up a fun experiment that oxytocin could be used as "magic loyal hormone", it could make a male become deeply in love with his partner and never cheats. So many women are asking if this product could be on market so they would spray on their husbands..LOL.Another fact about human body, since testosterone is male hormone but also exists in female, it leads men to be aggressive, adventurous, impulsive, suspicious on others. Before female's ovulation, her testosterone level is the highest, and this is the wonder of nature. Why? To bear a baby is a lot of time and energy, she needs to be careful and cautious to choose the right "father". Testosterone made her not so easily to trust on "sweet talkers" .(well, quite a lot failed, otherwise there won't be bunches of a$$h**es who abandoned their families.) Children who were neglected and abused during the childhood are failed to produce oxytocin, means they simply can not feel the pain from others, but some would lie and fake they do (tho MRI would show the truth) Then Zak brought up religious mind seems to give believers peace of mind and the stability of society, he doesn't agree on R. Dawkins' totally denial the function of religions. (I personally think religion should be kept as personal choice and no one should be forced to accept, except i think churches and temples should also pay the tax, to be fair!)The ending is a bit weak that Zak pointed out how to be in a happy nation: human connection, education, social welfare...etc.

  • Carter
    2019-03-29 22:34

    I want to say this book was ok because I distinctly remember enjoying parts of it but for the life of me it was just not very memorable. This may not necessarily be a reflection of the content of the book. I read it during a very busy month and primarily in bed right before going to sleep. From what I do recall, the book presented what I would describe as a pop psych style introduction to Zak's research. I did read several reviews of the book, most of which complained about the seeming lack of appropriate scientific inquiry and method to his research. I would in no way describe it as a thorough representation of his research and would, therefore, encourage anyone interested to look up the actual peer-reviewed articles (at least 4 of which can be found on PLOS ONE: Also, some of the best research has been born of personal experiments to pre-test ideas. So in regard to comments about his self-experimentation, I say any scientist who is willing to self-test is demonstrating passion if nothing else. And that is the one thing that unequivocally stood out for me in his writing, his passion for the subject matter. So while I did not necessarily gain a lot of take-away from this book, I did enjoy sharing in his journey. I also appreciated the last chapter wherein he applies his research to practical and worldly considerations. He did a beautiful job of summarizing and concluding the book.

  • Eleanor Cowan
    2019-04-12 20:44

    I know that chemical adjustments, say in the form of anti-depression meds, are extremely helpful to innocent sufferers of terrible depression that, unasked for, invades them. I also believe that we make moral choices ungoverned by the measure of peptides each of us has in our chemical storehouse. Many highly moral people mentally master their impulses and take the high road independent of their chemistry.Eleanor Cowan, Author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer

  • yamiyoghurt
    2019-03-22 18:30

    I enjoyed this book much more than I expected I would. Initially, I was skeptical about how the myriad of human behaviors could be attributed to a few chemicals. But minus that, this book proposes an interesting theory and a good snap shot of evolutionary behaviors. Am happy I picked up this read.

  • Lois
    2019-03-23 00:31

    Read it! It won't change your life but it's super interesting.

  • Douglas
    2019-03-24 00:43

    Some good information. Too many first person ramblings about his research.

  • Constance
    2019-04-03 23:40

    Interesting .......but putting it aside to come back later to.

  • Bob Nichols
    2019-04-18 22:46

    Zak pits two body chemicals against each other. Oxytocin brings people together by promoting good feelings and generating trust. Testosterone promotes aggression and wariness, and assertion of self-interest. It is oxytocin's "evil twin." The higher the testosterone level, the more the oxytocin response is blocked, "producing a damping effect on being caring and feeling." These two chemicals, Zak writes, dance through our social interactions "between cooperation and competition, benevolence and hostility, [and] maybe even what we call good and evil." It would be interesting to know whether other experts in body chemistry see oxytocin and testosterone in the same way. Taking his argument at face value, there are two significant implications that Zak interestingly does not develop. First, the presence of these chemicals in varying degrees would seem to largely explain the basis for the two dominant modes of behavior identifed by historians and philosophers. In one corner are the other-oriented, nurturers who are the models of good, social behavior; in the other corner are the overly self-oriented individuals who act on behalf of the self at the expense of the other if need be. While Zak's discussion suggests a biological basis for these behaviors, he also acknowledges that trauma or ordinary frustration contribute significantly to "oxytocin deficit disorder." Nevertheless, presuming that there are varying degrees of these chemicals (genetically) within individuals, Zak's discussion strongly hints at a biological basis for individual character, temperament and disposition. Zak sees a predominance of socially-oriented behavior under "stable and safe circumstances." This premise warrants further explanation. If one is overly self-oriented (infused with testesterone), what is the motivation to be "moral" in the way that Zak articulates? Also, while oxytocin might work well to form strong group bonds, its "evil twin" may also form the basis for suspicion, distrust and hostility toward those who are outside our group, and form the basis for tribalism.Zak applies his theory to the marketplace. He argues that trade makes people more moral because there's an "exchange of favors" that creates a mutual dependence. Here he brings in Adam Smith's argument that the pursuit of self-interest in a marketplace promotes the interest of all and creates "a virtuous cycle." That's good in theory, but it's hard to match up with his criticism of "rational self-interest" that he he says impairs empathy and moral judgement. The pursuit of self-interest in the marketplace is likely infused with the testosterone-laden aggression to take as much as one can get if one can get away with it. At some point, it's easy to see how the virtuous cycle unravels, and how unequal benefit creates even greater unequal benefit under "the winner take all" mentality that Zak rightly criticizes. Zak says that oxytocin allows for reciprocity and goes so far as to say that it provides the biological basis for the golden rule. That claim is loaded with implications. If each of us pursues our respective self-interest, then, practically, there are two types of behaviors that result. The first is that we respect the interest of each as the price of social life. That respect can happen (a) organically, because of oxytocin-induced behavior; (b) when we are forced to respect others because our self-interest depends on deferring to the group in key respects (a mixture of oxytocin because we want the group and testosterone because we want to pursue our self-interest); and (c) when, as a principle for behavior, we recognize that we must respect the interest of others if we are to satisfy our own interest (the same mixture of oxytocin and testosterone, framed as a principled hypothetical imperative). All of these are chemically-based variants of the golden rule. The second is that we toss the golden rule aside and seek to assert our self interest over others if need be because we are heavily testosterone-driven. As a result, those on the receiving end must rebel to defend their interest and society must employ counterforce to keep overly aggressive self-interested behavior in check.In the middle of these poles of behavior lies the marketplace that Zak discusses where the matter of utility (mutual benefit) operates. In the marketplace, there's an uneasy tension between these two chemicals. If oxytocin is sufficiently present, traders and customers respect certain rules of operation because they are infused with friendship, loyalty and respect. If there's too much testosterone, these rules of operation are fragile because loyalty and friendship are based more or less on strict utility.

  • Ria Alexandra
    2019-03-23 19:20

    I would love to see compounding studies from this data using statistical software...I'm sure there would be numerous ways to attribute Oxytocin levels to a wide range of understood communal and societal deficiencies throughout the world as we know it. These notions would have an interesting place in criminal law proceedings. Is it possible the next thing to be addressed by defense attorneys is an inherent or genetic lack of necessary Oxytocin levels to live in a society successfully?I believe science provides the "how", but never the "why". You know what chemistry happens in the brain of a person in love, but does it mean you know what love is?I would question some of the logic that goes into this oxytocin theory. I think that morality is so much more complex then a simple molecule. I would argue that many of our morals comes from our abilities to have a language. Human language is the primary tool that our morality is transferred bySUPER interesting...Oxytocin is responsible for empathy, it's empathy that makes us moral...Oxytocin infusion increases generosity and levels are increased by massage, dancing and praying. However the plot thickens...5% of the pop do not produce oxytocin (Psychopaths) AND oxytocin production is inhibited by improper nurturing...Those with low levels of oxytocin include about half of sexually abused women, those with high levels of stress, and those with high levels of testosterone HOWEVER, it is released by BOTH sexes during sex and by women who are breastfeeding. It's so funny then how DR LOVE here goes on to prescribe "8 hugs a day" to increase morality, when it's fairly obvious (based on his findings) that less rape culture, less patriarchy, less stress, MORE DANCING, MORE SEX, MORE PRAYING, MORE BREASTFEEDING, and MORE MASSAGE are clearly the answer to all our problems with oxytocin inhibition and, in turn, morality.

  • Fulvia
    2019-03-31 02:39

    As an adlerian psychologist and economist, I have found in Paul J.Zak’ s studies, a new confirmation of adlerian theory offered by 2 different sciences : economy and neuroscience which demonstrated in a multidisciplinary research, the importance of the community feeling, social collaboration, trust and mutual aid for the communities and individuals benefits. But all these, don’t have to remain in the field of study or theory or for some scientific practitioners, they need to be developed within the political process of the nations. A nation’s prosperity is directly correlated with trust, and trust is correlated with exposure to and engagement with others. A single molecule controls our trust–it is called Oxytocin. Oxytocin surges when people are shown a sign of trust, and/or when something engages what was once called “our sympathies,” which is what we now call empathy. When oxytocin surges, people behave in ways that are kinder, more generous, more cooperative, and more caring. But when scientists call these behaviors pro-social, that’s actually just a geek-speak way of saying that they follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Researcher Paul Zak has pioneered some of the latest research on the power of this single molecule.

  • Z
    2019-04-11 02:34

    A fascinating book. So much of what we call human nature makes more sense to me now. Basically, according to Zak, oxytocin is "the moral molecule" because it is produced as a signal that is it safe to let our guard down and behave in a moral, or "pro-social" way...I like that Zak uses an objective measure - the changes in blood levels in oxytocin. There is also discussion of things that interfere with oxytocin release: autism, abuse, stress, social anxiety disorder (none of which make people less moral, but can certain make them less "pro-social"). The economic aspect is interesting: Zak, who began his career as an economist, has determined through his research that the most important resource for any nation's economy is trust, and that economic transactions lead people to interact with people they would not interact with otherwise, which builds trust and pro-social behaviour, and leads to the ever-important exchange of ideas. Gigantic, multi-national corporations with seemingly unlimited power and no concern for workers, the environment, etc...obviously do not help build trust, and that is addressed...but the focus is on human interactions. According to Zak, oxytocin's opposite is testosterone, which is produced in response to perceived threats...

  • Sharina SM
    2019-04-17 01:45

    If John Lennon said 'all you need is love' then Paul Zak goes one step further by saying all you need is oxytocin. The Moral Molecule attempts to answer an evasive question- Is there an existing pattern that determines good behavior/morality/trust and the converse?Paul Zak says there is- the hormone Oxytocin. Several parts of the book felt like a reinforcement of everything we have heard about how hormones affect our moods and hence our behavior. But to say that it is the single determining factor for a subjective term like morality is highly debatable. The interesting part for me was the inference that everything is connected in the form of a virtuous cycle or for that matter a vicious cycle. I particularly liked the chapter about the 'disconnected'. We have heard how most terrorists and the like are products of a bad childhood. Paul Zak explains the biological reason behind it.All those who have seen the movie about Temple Grandin will now understand the relevance of her "squeeze machine". Overall a very good attempt at unraveling the science of how it all works. An enlightening and interesting read for anyone even vaguely interested in human psychology.

  • Sheila
    2019-04-13 20:43

    I picked this book up thinking it was going to be something very different. I was looking for insight on how I can use principles from this book when thinking about organizations and culture. The premise is really cool, Zak discusses how oxytocin levels result in trusting behavior. He discusses his experiments (every single one involves drawing blood) and then explores populations of people (abused, autistic, etc) who don''t have proper oxytocin receptors and therefore, have social characteristics that are unique from the norm. I rarely ever put a book down without finishing it but this one I just had to stop reading. I think for people who are really interested in the science and biology of trust, this is an excellent read. The premise is definitely an interesting one. However, it just wasn't the kind of read I was expecting and so for me, it was hard to maintain interest. On to the next!

  • Gerald Kinro
    2019-04-16 19:28

    Why do some people give freely while others are cold hearted?Why do some people cheat and steal while others you can trust with your life? Why are some husbands more faithful than others—and why do women tend to be more generous than men? Zak says it is oxytocin, a chemical manufactured within the body. It runs counter to testosterone. He points that both are needed in society, but the world would be a better place if we were more trusting. I found the science behind Zak’s theories interesting to read. I am not able to comment further on this, however, because of my limited, if any, knowledge of neuro-biology. My biggest question was so what? Do we try to control people--control people to make them more trusting and happy and moral? Sounds like pharmaceutical peddling at a different level.

  • Alicia
    2019-03-27 23:42

    Emotions and the link to chemistry, very interesting. How did we get to this state of non trusting in the first place? How do we reverse course? Perhaps hugging is a good start but in our present world where touching has become taboo none more so than within our schools and considering the scandals of the priesthood, how do we break through to trust again? For many it will be a giant leap. The choice is individual, based on experience and desire. Clearly we have chosen a fear based attitude as opposed to trusting. It is an intellectual endeavor. We would first have to realize our own ability to see ourselves through life's ups and downs. To understand one's personal power to change the environment. It will take embracing a entirely new attitude. It's interesting, what will we choose?This is an interesting study of oxytocin.

  • Christy Baker
    2019-04-10 02:24

    This was an interesting exploration of the chemical oxytocin and its effects on behavior; essentially the author, who started out as an economist but then became trained in bio-science to understand what might be biologically at the roots for altruistic/trusting and generous/kind behavior. He examines religion, philosophy, economic theory and describes the many biological/chemical studies he performed over the years in his quest to explain human behavior. While it was just a tad longer than my interest, for the most part, I found it quite interesting and have recommended it to several folks I thought would enjoy the topic. Well worth a read.

  • Lisa
    2019-04-16 20:32

    An enjoyable science read. Just enough science to be intellectual, just enough anecdotal human interest to be fun. The basics are that oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, makes for pro-social behavior. The author examines what behavior releases oxytocin and how it effects behavior after it is released. In addition, he comments on how it interacts with testosterone, a rather anti-social hormone, and cortisol, the stress hormone. The author closes with how we can create a more oxytocin-filled, trusting, and happier world one oxytocin-inducing act after another. If you like a good pop-science read, you'll enjoy The Moral Molecule by Paul J. Zak.