The Moral Molecule

31st May 2012; 18:00

Listen to the audio

(full recording including audience Q&A)
Please right-click link and choose "Save Link As..." to download audio file onto your computer.

Watch the video (edited highlights)

RSA Keynote

Are humans born good or evil? Do we have a moral impulse from the start, a natural inclination to empathise and care for each other? If so, why are there psychopaths? Why are parts of the world prosperous and others violent and impoverished?

Neuroscientist and economist Paul J. Zak has spent ten years researching to answer these questions and to discover the chemical governor of our behaviour. His work has led him from a ‘vampire wedding’ in Devon to the jungles of Papua New Guinea, from investigating the love rituals of lobsters to hurling himself from a plane.

Join Paul Zak at the RSA as he argues that oxytocin, a hormone most commonly associated with reproduction, is the moral molecule within us - a ‘trust drug’ released when we feel trusted, and responsible for our need to cooperate - and our need to punish. He will show how oxytocin can be both measured and manipulated, and what happens when it is inhibited.

Speaker: Paul Zak, founding director, the Centre for Neuroeconomics Studies and professor of economics,  Claremont Graduate University.

Chair: Anil Seth, co-director, the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, the University of Sussex.

See what people said on Twitter: #RSAZak

Get the latest RSA Audio

Subscribe to RSA Audio iTunes Podcast iTunes | RSA Audio RSS Feed RSS | RSA Mixcloud page Mixcloud

You are welcome to link to, download, save or distribute our audio/video files electronically. Find out more about our open access licence.