About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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Brain Waves

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August 8, 2006

Trust, Happiness and Societal Development

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Posted by Zack Lynch

A common critique of laboratory experiments is that they don't scale up to the "real world". However, in a new paper from neuroeconomist Paul Zak and Ahlam Fakhar shows that their work work on oxytocin does not face this critique. Here is a summary of the work:

The major finding is that factors that raise overall levels of oxytocin and/or estrogens (which increase oxytocin uptake) affect country-level measures of trust. Most prominently, these include the consumption of healthy foods (especially vegetables and fruits), clean environments, and some social behaviors. These are independent of the economic and legal factors that support trust and therefore provide a new rationale for governments and NGOs seeking provide healthier environments in developing countries: raising trust stimulates economic growth. Lastly, the strongest factor by far associated with a country's level of trust is...self-reported happiness. While the causation is likely bidirectional, we now know that trusting people are happier.

Paul Zak continues to produce some of the most important neuroeconomic work in the area of how to develop social capital leveraging the latest neuroscientific advances. The paper described above will soon appear in the journal Economics and Human Biology with the title "Neuroactive Hormones and Interpersonal Trust: International Evidence."

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neuroeconomics


1. Gordon Mohr on August 8, 2006 2:46 PM writes...

Hmm, can we drop the O-bomb on the middle east?

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2. John Schinnerer, PhD on August 8, 2006 3:16 PM writes...

Fascinating stuff considering Shelly Taylor's work at UCLA. Shelly has done research on how females differ from males in their innate response to fear. Males are programmed by evolution and genetics to fight or flee or freeze in the face of danger. Females are programmed to tend and befriend as a way to survive dangerous or stressful times. In other words, females tend to nurture the young (to protect the survival of the family) and create social networks as a way of maintaining safety. She found oxytocin as the foundation of this behavior. Oxytocin is present in both men and women, but is more prevalent in women.

The title of her article (she is the lead author) is "Biobehavioral Responses to Stress in Females Tend-and-Befriend, Not Fight-or-Flight" and can be found in the July 2000 issue of Psychological Review.

What's more, oxytocin can be produced via hugs longer than 20 seconds which creates more trust in women.

Best regards,

Dr. John Schinnerer
Author of "Guide To Self: The Beginner's Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought"
Guide To Self

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3. Kensai on August 16, 2006 10:20 AM writes...

I wonder when psychiatrists/psychologists will start prescribing oxytocin for trust-related "maladies".


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