From The Wall Street Journal: The Trust Molecule. A few choice excerpts from worthy article:
Why are some of us caring and some of us cruel, some generous and some greedy?
Could a single molecule—one chemical substance—lie at the very center of our moral lives?
Research that I have done over the past decade suggests that a chemical messenger called oxytocin accounts for why some people give freely of themselves and others are coldhearted louts, why some people cheat and steal and others you can trust with your life…
More strikingly, we found that you don’t need to shoot a chemical up someone’s nose…or even give them a hug in order to create the surge in oxytocin that leads to more generous behavior. To trigger this "moral molecule," all you have to do is give someone a sign of trust. When one person extends himself to another in a trusting way—by, say, giving money—the person being trusted experiences a surge in oxytocin that makes her less likely to hold back and less likely to cheat. Which is another way of saying that the feeling of being trusted makes a person more…trustworthy. Which, over time, makes other people more inclined to trust, which in turn…
If you detect the makings of an endless loop that can feed back onto itself, creating what might be called a virtuous circle—and ultimately a more virtuous society—you are getting the idea.
…oxytocin orchestrates the kind of generous and caring behavior that every culture endorses as the right way to live—the cooperative, benign, pro-social way of living that every culture on the planet describes as "moral." The Golden Rule is a lesson that the body already knows, and when we get it right, we feel the rewards immediately.
A few years ago, I began warning visitors to my lab that before they left, I was going to give them a hug. This scares some people, but I’ve found that my slightly eccentric announcement changes the depth of the conversation, making it more intimate, more engaging and more valuable to us both. I suspect that by forecasting a hug, I’m also signaling how much I trust the person, so I’m inducing a release of oxytocin in their brains. Those people, in turn, will connect better to others and treat them more generously. Nothing grander is required for a virtuous circle to begin.
Image Credit: fl-tsam