Previous scholarship has established that two areas of the brain are active when we behave in an egalitarian manner—the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and the insular cortex, which are two neurological regions previously shown to be related to social preferences such as altruism, reciprocity, fairness, and aversion to inequality. Less clear, however, is how these parts of the brain may also be connected to egalitarian behavior in a group setting.
In short study subjects were willing to sacrifice some of the income assigned by the researcher to other members of their group to even out pay disparity.
The researchers found that these two measures of egalitarian preferences were significantly associated with activations in the insular cortex, but not with the vmPFC.
This particular result is a potentially profound one as the insular cortex is also the part of the brain that processes the relationship of the individual with respect to her or his environment. In other words, egalitarian behavior may not exist in isolation, neurologically speaking, but, rather, be part of a larger process that stems from altruism and a sense of the larger social good.
Adam Smith, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, expressed this perspective in his 18th-century essay.
“Adam Smith contended that moral sentiments like egalitarianism derived from a ‘fellow-feeling’ that would increase with our level of sympathy for others, predicting not merely aversion to inequity, but also our propensity to engage in egalitarian behaviors,” the researchers wrote. “The evidence here supports such an interpretation—our results suggest that it is the brain mechanisms involved in experiencing the emotional and social states of self and others that appear to be driving egalitarian behaviors. This conclusion is consistent with a broader view of the insular cortex as a neural substrate that processes the relationship of the individual with respect to his or her environment.”
That a sizable percentage of the population has this capacity and is willing to actual act on alleviating unfair wage disparity is great. There is cause for reflection on the bigger picture. One is that people tend to act less selfishly when they know they are being observed. The other reason, as anyone who reads a major newspaper everyday knows, is that vast numbers of people are be very petty and self-absorbed – humans still kill each other over race, religion and ethnicity. In recent news quite a few people took to making some creepy observations about how puffy or not, an actress’s face was. Only about half the population, according to a recent poll is concerned with global warming. A recent disheartening study about how communities act toward the health effects of slow environmental disasters showed – family, friends and neighbors can be quick to invert blame away from the industry that caused the cancer to the victims. Why? Because letting everyone know the local industry caused cancer affected local income. Letting banks and large financial firms merge, become oligopolies and do business across state lines was among the leading causes of the financial collapse – those who would create more competition and better safeguards are now regularly called socialists. Discussing humanity in general is not frustrating because we’re good or because we’re evil through and through. Observing humanity is frustrating because we are capable of such good and such evil.
Most bloggers are familiar with Godwin’s Law – never accuse your debate opponent of being a Nazi as it means you have probably already lost the argument. besides it is usually historically inaccurate. Snark and satire would be exceptions. One of the reason, if not the reason de jur is that Hitler and the Nazis murdered around 7 million people. The estimates vary a little but it is thought that communists leaders Stalin murdered from four to six million, and Mao as many as three million. Yet Goodwin’s rule does not cover the use of comparing people to them. Barney Frank Destroys Allen West
Frank started by first slamming West and the GOP:
“Not even Joe McCarthy would have said anything so stupid and dissociated from reality,” Frank said in a call with The Huffington Post. “It’s an indication of the significant deterioration of the Republican Party as a responsible entity that an ignorant, mean guy like Allen West is considered one of their stars.”
He then gets considerably more serious, pointing out exactly what the intention of West, and others, is when they compare their political opponents to communists:
“It is exactly the opposite of those of us in the Congressional Progressive Caucus who are in support of freedom, in support of democracy, in support of people’s basic rights and civil liberties,” he said. “Communism is really a reference to some of the worst human rights abuses of our time … It is meant to delegitimize people and allow no basis for debate. It’s a very nasty label.”
He added, “I very much object to being associated with Stalin or Khrushchev.”
West seems to subscribe to the Glenn Beck-Jonah Goldberg school of historical mangling. They are not just about rewriting history, but creating a narrative in which liberals and progressives have not been the major forces in social and economic justice. From the concept of habeas corpus, to fair trails, to fair wages and decent working conditions, to ending slavery, to laying out the liberal framework of the U.S. Constitution, to public education, the forty hour work week, to ending child labor, to suffrage, to winning WW II to the adoption of the scientific method – the conservatives like West, Beck and the majority of the conservative movement want to make it look as though it was conservatism that was the hero. All they have is – or claim to have on their side is Edmund Burke – the guy who argued that democracy was fine for the 13 colonies, but not for anyone else. Who claimed that progress was fine for white males, but not for women. As backwards as that sounds Burke is practically a liberal compared to the modern conservative.
Spacehog – In the Meantime (Music Video)