Authors@ Paul Zak on "The Moral Molecule"

[email protected] Paul Zak on "The Moral Molecule"

Filmed live from Google London on Thursday 31st May, 2012.

[email protected] Presents…Paul Zak’s “The Moral Molecule”

Paul Zak is the founding Director of the Centre for Neuroeconomics Studies and Professor of Economics at Claremont Graduate University. He is the proponent of the theory that oxytocin, a hormone generally associated with childbirth and present in all of us, drives our morality and is responsible for trust, empathy and other feelings that build and help maintain stable societies.

In his new book, Zak sets out to ask why are men less faithful than women? Why are some people altruists and others cold-hearted bastards? Why do some businesses succeed while others collapse?


>>Paul Zak: Here at Google London. This book is about 10 years of my life trying
to figure out why people are good and evil. That's the longest debate since humans have
been having debates, right? Are we good, are we evil? And, of course, the answer is we're both. But that doesn't really help us. The question is why, right? Why would I ever behave in a way that's compassionate
or kind or why would I behave in a way that's cruel or aggressive? So, let me start out by telling you a little
about two women. One of them maybe you've heard of, one of
them you didn't. The first picture is from a crime scene. This crime was perpetrated by a woman that
I interviewed in a San Diego county jail in California. So to picture her she's wearing an orange
jumpsuit, her hands are shackled in front of her to her legs and she was a 25 year old,
long time meth user. So that tells you when she started using meth
and she had served a prison term for possession of meth amphetamine and then was sent to a
halfway house. So, kind of transition her back into life. In this halfway house were 4 women living
together, so 3 women and her. And it had a shared kitchen and living space. And she and these other women kept on having
these clashes. So one day in the kitchen, the prisoner I'm
talking to, decides to stab her roommate 22 times and let her bleed to death on the kitchen
floor. So we're going through this long interview,
you know, when'd you first start using drugs? Your family history? And I finally, she's already plead to murder
so she's agreed that she killed that lady and so I said, "Why'd you kill this woman?" "Ah, she bugged me." As if she's a fly that she's swatting on the
wall. Okay, case 2, this is a picture from the 1930s,
again a woman who is about 25 years old at the time and her name is Agnes Bojaxhiu and
she's Albanian. She's from a fairly wealthy family. At age 18 she decides she's gonna leave home
and join a convent called the Sisters of Loretto. It's gonna be very important, there's a quiz
at the end of this talk, so remember Sisters of Loretto cause it's gonna be a key part
of my story. So she goes to England for training, she goes
to Ireland, then she's posted to India where she spends her entire career ministering to
the poor, the sick, the untouchables as Mother Theresa. She never returned home again, never saw her
family, never saw her siblings, she dedicated her whole life to helping other people. So how do we get both those behaviors within
the human species? Killing people like they're nothing and reaching
out. So flip that around, think of your own lives,
right, you all look like pretty nice people, a couple of the guys in the back I'm not too
sure about but the rest of you look pretty good. So how can you, yourself, go from being nice,
relaxed, kind, smiling to being aggressive, grumpy, nasty? How does that switch occur? And so scientists have studied for a long
time the nasty part, the aggression, the fear, because that gets huge responses in the brain. But I wanted to ask the other question. What modulates us to be more like Mother Theresa,
more compassionate, more kind to reach out to others? >>Paul Zak: And this took me on a 10 year
journey. And I'll tell you a little about that. But before I do I want to give you an idea
of some of the fun experiments that we've run, not just in a laboratory, but in the
field. So this one happened right here in England
and I have a short video. [Cheering] >>female on video: Most people plan to make
their wedding special but this wedding in Southern England was a first for science. Nick and Linda had invited researcher, Paul
Zak, to take blood samples from them and their guests. It was a chance to find out what goes on in
people's bodies during this momentous bonding event. >>Paul Zak: The value of doing this as a field
study is that we have an actual real life event. So this way we actually go in, in a very natural
setting, a wedding with a hundred people, some of which knew each other, some of which
didn't know each other. >>female on video: Thirteen people, including
the bride and groom, had their blood drawn before and after the couple took their vows. Zak wanted to find out if there would be a
rise in their oxytocin, a hormone associated with love, trust and bonding. >>Paul Zak: We thought maybe during this wedding
ceremony people are bonding to each other and they're actually releasing oxytocin. So we measured oxytocin and we also measured
a cluster of other hormones that were also associated with reproduction. >>female on video: Zak found that the couple
and close family members >>female on video: had more extreme changes
in oxytocin. >>Paul Zak: Linda had the biggest spike in
oxytocin, a 28 percent increase in oxytocin before and after her vows. So she's really feeling the love. Who's next? The bride's mother, of course the bride's
mother is very engaged emotionally, and then the groom's father, and then the groom. And then further out are just some random
friends that we pulled. >>female on video: Testosterone is linked
to sex drive and studies have found that drops when men fall in love. Zak expected this to happen at the wedding,
too. But results proved otherwise. >>Paul Zak: We also found that testosterone
levels were flat for all the men we tested except for the groom. So, immediately after the vows, his testosterone
levels doubled from beforehand. Why is that? He had this beautiful woman, wearing a gorgeous
strapless gown and he's thinking about the honeymoon. >>female on video: According to Zak the most
important finding was that just being part of a wedding makes us release oxytocin. This may help explain why most people choose
to have a wedding instead of eloping with their partner. >>Paul Zak: I think the ritual evolved because
we all have a stake in sustaining the human race. The bride and groom have a built in set of
people who are emotionally engaged with them, who care about the outcome. >>Paul Zak: Okay, so that was one of the fun
experiments we've done outside the lab. But it's just a way to kind of demonstrate
that the kind of behaviors we're finding in the lab, that induce the release of oxytocin,
which I call the moral molecule, happen in our daily lives all the time. And I think that's why this work is very interesting,
is because our brains are living in this sea of chemicals and we're not always aware of
the chemicals that are being released and how they impact our behavior. So oxytocin, until we started doing these
experiments 10 years ago, was only known in human beings to facilitate birth and breastfeeding. In fact, one of my colleagues and I thought,
well, maybe oxytocin might modulate positive behaviors in humans, told me it was the world's
stupidest idea. Cause everyone knows it's just for birth and
it's not very important. So, "But men's brains release this too," I
said, "There must be a reason why." And in animals, oxytocin has been shown to
facilitate tolerance for animals that live together. So I thought, well, tolerance to, like, treating
people well, that kind of runs on a continuum, maybe this works on humans. Okay, great idea, difficult execution. So, oxytocin is a very shy little molecule. You have to coax it out of the brain, it has
a three minute half life and then it disappears. And, so, we're required some very tight experimental
procedures to get this thing to be released. And, again, before we start doing this, the
only ways known were birth, breastfeeding and also sex. All three of which are too messy to run in
my lab. So we thought well, maybe here's a way we
could induce the release of oxytocin in a way that I can do consistently over and over
and over, and would explain one of the mysteries of life which is why we actually trust strangers. So we used this task, a task that was developed
by a guy that won the Nobel Prize in economics for inventing experimental economics, now
called the Trust Game. And here's the task. So everyone gets recruited to be in this experiment,
you get 10 dollars if you agree to sit in these hard chairs for an hour and a half and
after lots of instruction and no deception at all, we never deceive people cause we're
the moral behavior guys, it would be bad karma to deceive people in experiments. Here's the task. You log into the computer, your identity is
masked with a secret number and you get paid in private when the experiment's over and
you get randomly matched with someone else in the lab, who also got 10 dollars for showing
up. And here's the task. There's a first decision maker and a second
decision maker in each pair and the first decision maker gets a prompt, by computer,
saying "Would you like to give up some of the 10 dollars you've earned for being here
and transfer it to the other person in the lab?" Whatever you give up comes out of your account
but gets tripled in the other person's account. So if you give up, say 8 of your 10 dollars,
you keep 2, but that person just got 24. So the second person gets a message saying,
"Guy 1 sent you 24 dollars, you have 34 dollars in your account, would you like to send some
amount back to that first person?" So you can see, if you think about this task,
the pie's gonna grow by three. But if you're the first decision maker, you
have to hope, believe, trust that this person is gonna, in fact, get the signal and return
the money. But, from the second decision maker's perspective,
whatever they return to you comes out of their account one to one, it doesn't get tripled
again, it's a pure monetary loss. Oh, I forgot to tell you, we're gonna stab
your arm with a needle twice and take four tubes of blood each time. So you're literally making decisions based
on blood money. So, why would you ever do this? So, what we showed is that the more money
you receive, as the second decision maker did earning trust, the more your brain releases
oxytocin and the more oxytocin onboard, the more you reciprocate. This is actually really interesting news. We have a biological basis for reciprocation. Essentially this is the golden rule. The golden rule exists in every culture on
the planet. It says if you play nice, I play nice. For 95 percent of people this is true. The 5 percent that don't get this are interesting. I'll tell you about those in a minute. So once we discovered that oxytocin facilitated
this reciprocal behavior, this, this trusting behavior, we had to really dig into this deeper. I mean, this is potentially very valuable. So not only do we measure oxytocin and blood,
we measure lots of other chemicals that interact with oxytocin and none of those had an effect
on this behavior. And, we developed an oxytocin nasal inhaler,
in which I can shoot synthetic oxytocin into the brain, safely, I've done this for about
700 people now, and we can turn on these moral behaviors like a garden hose. So not just trust, but things like generosity,
where to be generous towards you means I have to lose money myself. Things like being compassionate, being charitable,
giving money to charity, so once we stimulate the brain, release oxytocin or shoot this
into your brain synthetically, all of a sudden people are reaching out to others. So, one way to think about this is, oxytocin
evolved in mammals to motivate care for offspring. And in humans, this system works so powerfully,
because we have these little parasites called children attached to us for so long that we
attach to all kinds of people, including strangers. But I think that's one of the great triumphs
of the human species, is that we can extract value from social relationships. And sometimes that value is from romantic
partners or friendships, but we can actually interact with strangers and get lots of value
out of those relationships, sometimes economic value. So how do we all work together? Again, so if you guys were rats in this room,
fur would be flying. Rats who don't know each other don't like
each other. But, again, most people here look pretty comfortable
and relaxed, how do we do that? Because we have something in our heads, oxytocin,
that says, "Johnny, perfectly safe. Seems to be a great guy and >>audience member: Michael. >>Paul Zak: Michael, kind of sketchy, don't
wanna be around Michael." So, again, if we didn't have that in our heads
we couldn't modulate the appropriate behavior. So, for Michael, I wanna go in and fight with
him. I have different chemicals that tell me, like
testosterone, that tells me how to do that. Okay, so that's the basic outline. The open question, though, is what it feels
like when your brain releases oxytocin. So we ran an experiment, designed by one of
my former graduate students now a faculty member with me, George Barazza which we had
people watch a very sad video. A hundred second video of a father and his
two year old son, the son's name is Ben and he has terminal brain cancer. These are not actors, these are real people
and Ben has actually now died. So, I'm not gonna show you the video because
the last time I showed it was at a law conference and several lawyers actually cried. And you know lawyers don't have souls so,
you know, I don't wanna make you nice people cry. Anyway, it's a very emotional video. There's a control video in which Ben and his
father are just at the zoo, there's no mention of cancer or death. So for the treatment video, the father actually
talks to the camera and talks about how it knows to feel to know his son is gonna die
in a couple months. And the son doesn't know it; he's just a happy
little kid, going through chemo, whatever. We get a 47 percent increase in oxytocin,
huge, just enormous increase, and people are more generous to strangers in the lab with
the money they earn for being there. They donate more money to the charity that
produced this ad. But they reported feeling the experience of
empathy. So the change in oxytocin correlated positively
with the sense of empathy. So it seems to be empathy that oxytocin makes
us feel. So, again, when I release oxytocin, I'm more
connected to you emotionally. I'm better able to forecast your emotions
and, therefore, understand what you're likely to do. This is pretty useful when you're around strangers. So, why is that useful? Well, that's consistent with human beings
having to modulate our behavior to fit the environment we're in. Alright, so if I have a sense of empathy then
I can figure out if you're gonna be aggressive, if you're gonna be dangerous, if you're gonna
be useful to have a relationship with and I'm plugged in more with you than just having
a cognitive mechanism that says, "Here are the 14 things I can do. If you do this, I do that." Now I'm kind of inside your head or inside
your heart, if you will. I'm getting a sense of what you're likely
to do. OK, so why are people ever good when no one's
watching? In our experiments, you're in a partitioned
booth, you have a ton of privacy, you can walk out the lab with the money that people
had given you but most people don't do that. Why not? Well, maybe God's watching you. So you're gonna get punished now or later. Maybe the government's watching you, right,
maybe people have the sense that, you know if I do something bad, eventually I'll get
caught and punished. Or, maybe this guy at the bottom of the screen
was right. So that's a picture of Adam Smith, Scottish
philosopher, famous for being the quote, father of economics. He wrote a book in 1776 called The Wealth
of Nations, which you guys have all heard of. But it turns out that Smith was, in fact,
more of a philosopher. And he wrote a book in 1759 called the Theory
of Moral Sentiments. Now to tell you a little about Smith, he was
a weird guy. He sometimes would get so caught up in his
own thinking that he would leave the house in his pajamas. He lived with his mother his entire life until
she died. He was kind of a weird character and he was
very minor figure. Just a little guy in Edinburgh, giving lectures
on moral philosophy, but this book, The Theory of Moral Sentiment, made him a rock star. So, 18th century Europe, this guy is the thing. He's having dinner with the king of France;
he's hanging out with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson because he developed, in
this book, the first real terrestrial theory of morality. And that theory said that we are social creatures
and we have, what he called mutual sympathy, we would call that empathy today, and because
we have mutual sympathy, we inhabit other people's heads just a little bit. So if I do something that brings Johnny pain,
I'm gonna feel that pain so I tend not to do that cause I don't like pain. And if I do something that brings Michael
pleasure, I get to share in that pleasure and, therefore, I tend to do those things. So we worked out our conditions in which this
would accentuate or be inhibited. And, so, I had the same discovery, I just
found the neuroscience behind it. So Smith seemed to be right. We have this underlying kind of Yin and Yang
of morality right inside us. Half that is oxytocin, it's what we feel when
we're in other people's presence, what we're experiencing from them, we call it empathy;
the Yang part is punishment which I'll tell you about in a minute, which is interesting. So, I think the punch line here is we don't
need God or government telling us what to do because we have this internal monitor and
it's kind of like rocket thrusters. Cause we live in this sea of strangers, we've
got to figure out which direction to go and the negative direction was pretty well understood,
how to be aggressive and the mechanisms behind that. But the positive rocket thruster was not understood
before we starting running these experiments and actually you see a really important part
of the puzzle because we do see in many circumstances lots of good behavior among the humans. So one reason not to motivate more behaviors >>Paul Zak: is this one. This is from a show called Boston Legal. [Music plays] >>female in video: Oxytocin? >>male in video: It's a hormone not a drug. >>female in video: What does it do? >>male in video: Well, essentially it causes
people to trust you. >>female in video: There's a hormone that
causes people to trust you? >>male in video: I mainly used it for me. It can also help people with social anxieties. It enabled me to trust her as well. I spray it on like cologne. It has a nice gentle fragrance, not too bold. [Laughter]
>>male in video: Anyway, Dana, that's her name. She found out and she's suing me. >>male in video: You're disappointed in me. >>female in video: Well, I am, Jerry. Truth be told. >>Paul Zak: Okay, so two lessons come from
this video. One is, be careful what you do in research
because the TV shows will pick it up. But the answer here to increase more behaviors
is not to spritz the rooms with oxytocin. So, in fact, when we do these experimental
tasks where we infuse oxytocin, you're getting about two teaspoons of liquid up your nose,
you know you're getting it, it's not very pleasant and that's kind of a sledge hammer. So your brain's own oxytocin system has this
very short on, off. It's got a three minute half life. So I see Johnny, I turn it on, he's safe,
that allows me to approach him. So oxytocin modulates its approach, withdraw,
trust, distrust behavior. I don't wanna leave that switch on cause I
might run into Michael, scary guy, and I don't wanna be reaching out to him cause he might
hurt me. Or he might just not be an appropriate person
to be around. So I've always got to modulate this kind of
behavior. But even with a drug, we don't see oxytocin
turning people into gullible, piles of mush where they're just giving away money. They're still cognitively intact they've just
changed this balance between self and other. So one way to think of oxytocin is this molecule
that motivated us to care for our offspring, makes us treat strangers like family. So, that can be a very beautiful thing. All of a sudden now my family has enlarged
and it could include, potentially, the entire planet. So I can connect to anybody around the planet. So, it's not drugs, it's understanding how
your brain releases oxytocin that can motivate these positive social behaviors. By the way, I'm using the world moral and
it's not a big M, it's a small m, so moral just means an appropriate social behavior. So like the golden rule, I have no theological
or philosophical stake in some other version of that. So it just means the positive social behaviors
that sustain you in the social group as a human being. So oxytocin actually activates a larger brain
circuit which I call the home circuit. Home stands for human oxytocin mediated empathy. And it utilizes two other neurotransmitters,
dopamine and serotonin. And the arrows show the kind of pathways that
oxytocin, which is released deep in the brainstem these evolutionary old areas of the brain,
into areas that modulate social behaviors and social memories. What's important about this is that the brain
has set it up so that it feels good to do good. So, in particular, you get this dopamine release
that reinforces positive social behaviors and you get a mood lift from the serotonin
release. So the brain is set up to motivate positive
behavior. So it's not an anomaly that we treat people
well, that we hold doors for people going into office buildings, that's actually part
of our deep evolutionary history. Again, that's because that's what sustains
us in our social group, is behaving in appropriate ways. Again, if I run into a scary guy or someone's
threatening my kids, believe me I'm gonna turn it on and take em' out if I can, or get
my kids away. But, for the most part, for most people most
of the time, you play nice, they're gonna play nice. So the most of the time, of course, is where
the rubber hits the road. So let's talk about ways we can inhibit oxytocin
release. So, there's a couple interesting ways. One of those is high levels of stress. So, it turns out that moderate stress induces
more oxytocin release, right, in a stressful situation you wanna bond together. Think of yourself, I don't know, in the airplane
in a bad thunderstorm, the plane is jumping around and you have avoided talking to your
seatmate, right, you're reading your book, playing with your computer and now you start,
you can't read anyway, but, you just start talking. "Man I hate these thunderstorms. It sucks, I wanna get home." Why do you do that? It's actually calming to be going through
something stressful with someone else. But at high levels of stress, the plane's
going down, it's all about you. You're brain says, "Hey, you gotta get through
the next 20 minutes, forget about everybody else." So you guys know that. When you're under high stress you're not your
best self, right, kind of nasty and grumpy or short tempered. And then what do you have to do the next day? You gotta go into work or to your spouse and
go, "Man, I was a jerk yesterday." [Laughs]
>>Paul Zak: "I was having a really bad day." My dog died, my car broke down, whatever it
is and then you have to rebuild those social relationships. Okay, the other potent oxytocin inhibitor
that we found in the lab, is a chemical that is the most important chemical to half the
people in this room, testosterone. So when we administer testosterone to men
in experiments, can better themselves on placebo, we can make them more selfish and more entitled. Okay, so who are the most selfish and entitled
people on the planet? Teenage boys, which half of us used to be, we can tell you that. But we also find that high testosterone individuals,
mostly males but sometimes females, also are more likely to punish people for moral violations,
for example, violations of sharing norms. So, the yang of biology is punishment. So, I might be nice to you because I had this
oxytocin release, I don't wanna give you pain cause I'm gonna feel that pain or because
I fear that you're gonna be aggressive towards me. You're gonna view what I'm doing as bad behavior
if I don't play nice and get aggressive towards me, particularly if I'm a male, and, so, this
balancing act kind of keeps us on the straight and narrow most of the time. So do we need God or government? We still need a little God and a little government
probably because since our brains live in a sea of chemicals, we need these bright lines,
the society places or some book places that says, "Look if you're not here, if you're
here everything's fine, but once you get out here you gotta start worrying." So, as a society, I think what we've done
is say, "Look, here's where the bright lines are" We move them occasionally but, "Here's
where the lines are." Within this range everything's pretty much
appropriate, you can pretty much modulate your behavior, but once you start getting
outside those lines then we as a group are gonna say, "We don't think that's acceptable." So, I think we still need to have those bright
lines, again, cause we're not always consciously aware of these evolutionary old impulses for
good or bad behavior. Other factors that affect the release of oxytocin
include developmental history. So in animals, animals that are abused or
neglected develop oxytocin receptors, particularly in the forebrain, in which you get these good
feelings when you behave in a positive social way. We found that about half of women who are
repeatedly sexually abused as children don't release any oxytocin on stimulus. We've also found within this five percent
of so who don't respond in our experiments, that a couple percent of those are psychopaths. So, psychopaths don't feel empathy and they're
mostly born that way. So you're born with bad genes. You just don't get this, you're just kind
of a user, you know, you've taken advantage of people; you're in permanent survival mode. And the psychopaths are not fixable; we've
actually found in our blood tests, that we can identify them before they behave in certain
ways. So, their oxytocin receptors seem to be dysfunctional. So there's no fix. We can't replace the oxytocin because the
whole brain system that utilizes it doesn't work properly. So I avoid, I suggest avoiding the psychopaths,
they are dangerous. So in writing this book I really had come
to terms with why I spent 10 years of my life looking at moral behaviors. And, in coming to terms with that, the first
answer was I had done work, both some as an economist and a neuroscientist and in my economist
world, I had worked in the late 90s showing that countries that had high levels of interpersonal
trust were more prosperous. So poor countries are, by large, low trust
countries and when trust is low, very few transactions occur, including transactions
that create wealth and reduce poverty. So this work had a lot of impact. The World Bank flies me out, you know, how
do we raise trust in these developing countries? And what I couldn't answer was, for a given
country, why two people who didn't know each other would ever trust each other. So that really led into our original trust
experiments and then this longer odyssey. But as I started writing the book, I really
had to be honest about that. So for us trust is really important, relieving
poverty, the true reason for this 10 years worth of work is this woman right here. This nun, her name is Sister Mary Maristella
and this is a picture from the 1950s. After the picture was taken she decided to
leave the Sisters of Loretto, the orders of nun that she had joined. And, a couple years later became my mother. So you think you had an interesting childhood,
talk to me. So, Morality with a capital M was certainly
in our house all the time. I was an altar boy, I was raised Catholic,
learned Latin, breathed in a lot of incense and over time, it just didn't make sense to
me. That only Catholics go to heaven and however
good a Buddhist person you are or a Hindi or whatever; you're not the right kind of
moral person. So, I think in rejecting that kind of view
of this top down morality that my mother had, I was looking for this underlying, like Adam
Smith, terrestrial basis for my moral behavior. A biological basis to understand good and
evil, and this drove me to look at all these different experiments. As I said earlier, we've gone outside the
lab, as well, to make sure that what we're finding in the laboratory actually works in
real life. And I seriously avoided anything having to
do with religion because of my background. I didn't wanna know, although we asked religious
question, you know, do you believe in God, do you pray? None of that affects behavior in a laboratory
because oxytocin explains the vast majority and variations in these behaviors. But anyway, having come to turns with my own
weird religious background, we have now, we've gone to churches, we've gone to folk dances,
we've gone to places where people congregate, where they exercise, soldiers marching and
in all these circumstances we found, indeed, that the majority of people would release
oxytocin when they do these community activities. So, again, I don't think these rituals are
going away because people who release oxytocin during the ecologically valid rituals feel
closer to their community. And when you feel closer to your community
then you have the value of those social relationships. So I don't think churches are disappearing,
but maybe in Europe, we'll see. Okay, so one more question really bugged me,
which is all the studies I've shown you so far have been run either in Western Europe
or the U.S. And I thought, if we're really building a
theory, a biological theory, about morality, oxytocin release has gotta be universal for
this theory to be universal. So last year, I went to the Highlands of Papua
New Guinea to run an experiment. So this is our rain forest in which there
are 800 distinct languages cause these tribes of subsistence farmers are very isolated and
they can be very aggressive. 50 years ago, they were cannibals. So I get there, and this is like the experiment
from hell. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong,
other than someone getting seriously hurt or killed. No electricity, no running water. So we brought generators, I brought all my
own medical equipment, but, anyway, there were lots of issues that made it a very difficult
experiment to run. But we had these individuals do a typical
ritual that they would engage in, in their village, and let me show you what it looks
like then tell you about it. [Music plays] >>Paul Zak: It's in Japanese. I can, if you wanna hear it. Any Japanese speakers? [Music plays with Japanese narration] >>Paul Zak: So this was a Japanese documentary
on human evolution and so the camera crew followed me for this experiment
[marching noise] >>Paul Zak: So these are people living in
a village called Malke, there's about a thousand people there. This is a traditional war dance that they
do. [Murmuring]
[Japanese speaking] >>Paul Zak: And we took blood before and after. Before and after to find out what goes on
in the brain during this period. [Music plays]
>>Paul Zak: Like I said, there's no electricity. This is a hand crank centrifuge, we actually
brought a generator but my electrical centrifuge started burning up and so we had to crank
some of the blood by hand which is, 10 minutes by hand is a lot of work. [Music plays]
[Japanese speaking] >>Paul Zak: None of these men had ever been
to a doctor or dentist. They'd never seen their blood drawn before. And because there's no running water, although
it rains, we had to use like 5 or 6 alcohol swabs just to get to skin. I mean, they're kind of covered with dirt. They live in a wet, muddy area. [Japanese speaking]
[Music plays] [Japanese speaking]
>>Paul Zak: So, the other things we measured were testosterone, stress hormones and oxytocin
release because they all interact with each other. [Japanese speaking] >>Paul Zak: So you can
hear my perfect Japanese on that tape. So what we found is, indeed, 60 percent of
the men in this ritual released oxytocin and they felt closer to their community in this
ritual that they had done for thousands of years. So the release of oxytocin appears to be universal,
almost everyone has it and I think harvesting this power can be quite valuable. So, because stress, like survival stress,
inhibits the release of oxytocin, it also inhibits our ability to feel empathy and to
connect to others and so there's this possibility that there's this positive feedback loop in
which as I release oxytocin, I engage in more moral behaviors, including trusting behaviors,
which allows for more extraction of social value from in relationships including the
economic value. And as I move people out of poverty, I give
them the luxury of releasing oxytocin and behaving in those social ways, and so this
feedback loop can start occurring. Of course you can unwind this, you can do
this backwards, we see lots of countries doing this. So if this feedback loop is real, we should
be able to see a data at the country level suggesting this is happening. And, in fact, we do see that. This is data on tolerance. It's a little hard to read but it's a strong
income gradient on measures of tolerance, the ability to tolerate people that are different
than you. There's a nice income gradient for things
like trust and there's even income gradient for happiness. So countries that are more tolerant, more
trusting are more prosperous and are happier. And, in fact, we found the same thing at the
level of individuals. In a recent experiment, which we look at the
differences in oxytocin release, we asked, "What's the difference between people who
release lots of oxytocin when they're trusting versus those who release little?" And the people who released the most were,
in fact, happier in their lives and they were happier because they had better relationships
of all types, better romantic relationships, more close friends, closer to family, they're
even nicer to strangers in laboratory tests. So, we looked at many ways to release oxytocin
and one of those is touch. Now, one our early experiments, we showed
that touch induces oxytocin release and so you have to believe your own research. So I started changing my life because of my
own research and one of the things I refuse to do is I refuse to handshake now, I hug
everybody. And, so, the students in my lab started calling
me Doctor Love as kind of a joke. Anyways, I had this reporter a couple years
ago from Fast Company magazine come to the lab, run through some experiments and then
he added me as Doctor Love in the title of his article about me. And at first I was kind of unhappy cause I'm
a serious scientist. Then I started thinking, like, what thing
could I do better in the world than encourage people to connect more, to show more love. In fact, oxytocin is just like love. You can't force someone to love you and you
can't force your own brain to release oxytocin. You can only give it to somebody else and
if you give it to somebody else, 95 percent of those people, they're likely to reciprocate
and show you that love, that care, that empathy in return. So I think, if I'm Doctor Love, fine. If I can encourage people to be more connecting,
more loving, I think I've done something good in the world. So, anyway, the book has a lot of practical
ways that you can do that besides just hugging people. And I think what it means is that we can take
charge of our social lives and build communities that allow us to foster better social relationships
and more happiness. So, understanding how to harness the power
of oxytocin, I think, is potentially very valuable. By the way, let me just say, since I'm at
Google, we've also shown in a number of experiments that using social media, like Google Plus,
induces the release of oxytocin as well. So, connection is what we need, connection
is what we want and if you understand that that's a very deep evolutionary part of history,
a deep part of our human nature, then I think it frees you up to connect to others and to
enjoy the reduction in stress, the improvement in immune system and an increase in happiness
that you get from oxytocin release. So, I've said a lot, how about if I take some
questions and we can hang out and chat a little bit. Oh, there's no questions at all? Michael,we should let him go first cause I
picked on him. [Laughter]
>>Paul Zak: He's a fine person, we know that. >>male #1: So I have a question, um, does
the ability to perceive oxytocin change us over time in the same person? >>Paul Zak: That's a great question. So, there is evidence suggesting that the
more you release oxytocin, the more you lower the threshold for release. In other words it gets easier to release oxytocin. By the way, that's different than fear. So fear we acclimate to, so I can scare you
and then you get used to that stimulus and I have to keep increasing it. But with oxytocin release, it gets easier
and easier which is very interesting. Even though there's some experiments that
suggest that, my own experience is the same. Because I'm introvert, and I kind of get tired
talking to people but it turns out that the more I connect to people, the easier it gets
and, presumably, the more oxytocin I'm releasing. So, I'm subject number one in that experiment. Yeah, thanks. >>male #2: So, did I understand correctly
that you said you could test, establish where people were on the psychopath scale through
blood testing? >>Paul Zak: Yeah, we have evidence that we
can identify the psychopaths. We can't nail that exactly where they are
on a scale but if you're severe enough, this is the Hare psychopathology's checklist. If you're severe enough on a checklist, you'll
get picked up in our blood test. >>male #2: So are you concerned with the,
sort of, criminal justice applications of this at some point in the future? >>Paul Zak: Right, so I see people who I talk
to and groups I talk to who really like this work a lot are lawyers and judges because
they have these frequent fliers. So I spent a fair amount of time in courthouses
and jails interviewing these individuals to find out why they don't respond to punishments. And there's actually some very funny stories
in there and also some tragic stories. But I'm not worried about a, kind of, Brave
New World approach where, again, we're shooting this stuff into people's brains. Because, number one, the effects are fairly
subtle and, number two, these psychopaths don't seem to have the receptors for oxytocin,
so even if I replace it, having said that, there are drugs in development that can increase
the number of oxytocin receptors. And, so, those might be used to treat a variety
of disorders that associate with improper social behaviors, schizophrenia, depression,
social anxiety and maybe psychopathology. So, again, I think society needs to say where
that line lies. I need to do the basic research and show the
world what we can do with it. >>male #2: So, I mean, given the Hare test
is used to sort of approve or deny parole in some states, I mean, do you think that
would be a useful thing if this blood test became used eventually to, sort of, decide
people's futures? >>Paul Zak: Right, so I think, we're still
doing more research on this so I'd say the jury's still out. There's a funny story I tell in the book about
being pulled into a murder case. So there was an internet entrepreneur in Silicon
Valley named Hans Reiser who was getting divorced. His wife was Russian and instead of divorcing
his wife he decides, instead, to kill her. And he's on trial for this, they never find
the body, the last day of the trial he's gonna be convicted for sure. He pleads to first degree murder to avoid
the death penalty and shows the prosecutor where the body is. He goes to jail for life, he's in San Quentin. A year into San Quentin, he writes a four
page, handwritten appeal to the state of California asking for a new trial, citing my research,
claiming that his lawyer had oxytocin deficit disorder, this disorder I called, which you
don't release oxytocin. And, of course, that appeal was denied. But, I mean, the lack of insight, here's a
guy who has no empathy at all who's claiming his lawyer didn't have empathy and couldn't
represent him properly. So it's getting into the law now. So, yeah, we're, the largest group of neuroscientists
have come out the last few years saying that many of the neuroscience findings like brain
imaging, are not ready for the courtroom because they are, they can induce more bias than they
can remove uncertainty in, in people's minds. So, they're more prejudicial than they are
probative. Yeah, great question, thanks. Yeah. [Pause] >>male #3: Two related questions on the, assuming
that there are other factors, say besides trust, that might effect a country's prosperity
where, could you name a few countries who may have had high, um, low trust but high
prosperity? And then on the individual level is it possible,
again, similarly to, the 5 percent of people who were kind of psychopathic, is it possible
to override the oxytocin pathway process and still do some of these negative things but
have fully functioning oxytocin receptors? >>Paul Zak: Great question, two great questions. So, we actually ran a horse race using cross
country data which asked does this oxytocin which facilitates trust, does that come first
or do you need kind of good institutions? So, it's the institutions that actually generate
high trust and the oxytocin response to that. So those are a government that fairly enforces
contracts, independent judiciary, having a well functioning social sector so not a lot
of social strife and having a well functioning economic sector. So, for example, a very high variance in distribution
of income tends to drag down trust levels because now it's harder to understand if someone's
gonna behave nicely because they might be under survival stress. And so yeah, fixing those three sectors come
first and then the brain responds with this feeling of safety. So a great example is London or New York which,
you know, 25-30 years ago were much less safe places and have become, actually, much friendlier,
much safer and, actually, very prosperous. So, I was in New York 10 days ago, I mean,
2 in the morning you can walk around and you feel totally comfortable in Manhattan and
just about anywhere. So yeah, there are, there's this positive
feedback loop. The second question was on individuals who
don't seem to have these oxytocin receptors. So, in a short story to illustrate this point,
we ran an experiment for a TV show, which I talk about in the book, a show on the seven
deadly sins. And, so, of course I was hoping to get lust. Unfortunately, I got greed. I thought I could do lust, but anyway, the
shtick on the show was they took a woman from the Donald Trump show, The Apprentice, in
the US, and who is gorgeous, successful, but famously greedy. And we run her through a battery of trials
to understand, is she a psychopath? Is she using people? Or, so she was actually very greedy for money,
in fact, we put her on the intranasal oxytocin, it didn't affect her behavior. So, she has many of the attributes of psychopaths,
although she has a very funny developmental history which you can read up on in the book. Her father was a drug dealer, although she's
very intelligent. But, when we did other tasks with her, like
we did some cooperation tasks in which they don't involve money, she was wonderfully cooperative
and an actually very nice person but she doesn't have the underlying oxytocin release. So, she can still be a nice person when she
wants to, but when it comes to business she will take your face off if she can. So, again, we learn to modulate this. So, again, it's not just oxytocin, there's
lots of other factors that affect our social behaviors. But that was really the missing mechanism
that motivates the many positive behaviors. Yeah, thanks. >>male #4: So, one of the behaviors that you're
talking about, oxytocin in the brain that you're measuring it from blood before and
after samples, so I was wondering if you could talk about the difference between the oxytocin
in the brain versus in the blood. And, are there any sort of experimental techniques
coming up where you'll be able to more directly measure during an activity rather than just
a before and after snapshot? >>Paul Zak: Right, great, great neuroscience
question. So, because oxytocin is so evolutionarily
old, it's one of the few brain chemicals that' released simultaneously both in brain and
blood under physiological stress. And when we give these tasks, we're stressing
you and so what's in brain and blood are correlated. Base line levels are not correlated but under
physiological stress they are. So, what's in blood is a decent reflection
of what's in brain and we, you know, we collaborated, we confirmed what we see in blood by, again,
infusing intranasal oxytocin. So we show the brain releasing oxytocin for
this task, then we infuse oxytocin and show we can replicate the task. And we've done things like functional brain
imaging to show in these tasks we see a big activation or a larger activation versus controls
that are rich in oxytocin receptors. So we are working, now, on, actually with
the US military, on very rapid ways to measure oxytocin release. So I can't talk about those but there are
ways that we're investigating that may allow us to measure on a second by second basis
or even faster, what is going on in the brain. >>male #5: You seem to be saying that cause
and effect from increased oxytocin to increased empathy or increased trust works in both directions. Is that, is that correct? Is that what you are saying? >>Paul Zak: Right, so it's the receipt of
the positive social signal, could be a signal of trust, could be a hug, that induces the
recipient's brain to release oxytocin and then motivates these moral behaviors or pro
social behaviors. >>male #5: But you also were saying that if
you inject or nasally inject oxytocin equivalents then you can see changes in behavior? >>Paul Zak: Right, so the reason for the oxytocin
inhaler studies is to, again, complete that circle. But also because it gives someone, gives people
in the experiment a physiologically equivalent social signal. So I could, in experiments, have everyone
go and hug each other, but those, that'll have varying effects across individuals. When I give you the oxytocin spray, it's as
if you received a positive social signal and everyone gets the same signal. Yeah, another good question. One more question and then we'll sign some
books. No more questions, okay, so thanks to you
guys for coming and if you wanna chat afterwards come by and get a hug from me, Doctor Love,
and thanks so much for your questions. [Applause]


  1. Hello! Thanks a lot for this useful video. By the way, I hear lots of people keep on talking about Xocialign System (search on google), but I'm not sure if it's good. Have you tried using system called Xocialign System? I've heard some extraordinary things about it and my work buddy completely stop his social anxiety naturally with this system.

  2. And yet, if your imaginary badguy had a large oxytocin injection he quite possibly wouldn't have committed that bad behavior. How's that for not letting hormones direct you? Stop living in the bronze age, your "mind" is what your brain does and your brain is a physical and chemical system.

  3. I suppose it is not that one-sided. Neither evil nor empathy are truly conscious choices. In fact I am not sure what a conscious choice would be. Facing a danger we "fight or flee". Not a conscious choice. Perhaps we should increase investigation in that field…do we really have conscious choices and up to what point?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *