Monday, October 09, 2006

Turn "me" off: selfishness switch in human brain discovered

Selfishness off switch in human brain discoveredAs the saying goes, there is no "I" in "team". But that may be more the result of our cerebral hardwiring than formative years spent playing Little League.

According to a study published in the journal Science, scientists have discovered a region of the brain that overrides selfishness and helps humans behave more collaboratively.

From HealthDay:

Experiments involving a "fairness" game show that the right side of this region -- called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex -- helps people suppress selfish urges in obviously unjust situations, even at their own expense.

When researchers used a mild electric current to temporarily short-circuit this area, the law of the jungle quickly reasserted itself...

The Swiss and American team behind this research noted that, despite a long history of crime, wars and rapaciousness, human beings are innately cooperative. In fact, Homo sapiens is the only species to exhibit "reciprocal fairness" -- the punishment of others' unfair behaviors, even in situations where doing so hurts the punisher...

Why might this be so? Humans are highly socially evolved, and punishing unfairness "helps sustain cooperation in groups," said study lead researcher Ernst Fehr, director of the Institute for Empirical Research in Economics at the University of
Zurich.

Because more cohesive groups tend to have better survival prospects, humans who suppress their immediate urges end up on the "winning team," evolutionarily speaking.
If you can’t get enough about studies on human behavior, you may like to check out the following posts:

(Via Boing Boing.)