Moral behavior in animals

TEDxPeachtree focuses on ideas worth spreading in myAJC mentions this video. By the way, TEDxPeachtree returns this Friday, November 8th.

This features Frans de Waal showing videos demonstrating animals cooperating on tasks, something we think of as human behavior. One I really liked was chimpanzees give the researcher a prosocial (feed both) or antisocial (feed chooser) token and how often they picked the prosocial was measured. Retaliation by the non-choosing chimpanzee reduced how much the choosing one picked the prosocial option.

Stories

Those who enjoy thinking are mentioned at the end of this quote from Why Stories Sell: Transportation Leads to Persuasion as most vulnerable to being persuaded by a story. Reading Oscar Wilde is fun if only because he puts in so many entertaining quips from his characters to comment and persuade the reader. I feel transported back to college where my friends were challenging my ability to keep up with the craziness of who did what, when, how to who.

Stories work so well to persuade us because, if they’re well told, we get swept up in them, we are transported inside them.

Transportation is key to why they work. Once inside the story we are less likely to notice things which don’t match up with our everyday experience.

For example an aspirational Hollywood movie with a can-do spirit might convince us that we can tackle any problem, despite what we know about how the real world works.

Also, when concentrating on a story people are less aware that they are subject to a persuasion attempt: the message get in under the radar.

Two sorts of people who may be particularly susceptible to being persuaded by stories are those who seek out emotional situations and those who enjoy thinking (Thompson & Haddock, 2011).

Drew Westen at Emory University has a good New York Times piece on how President Obama failed to keep up the grand story he built transporting people into building a better America during the campaign. He needs to resume telling it or start a new one to convince the American public he should be elected for a second term.

Precise Shock Therapy

Consider this Cyborg Stephen Hawking Part II. Our understanding of the brain is so very underwhelming. Ran across an interesting article: Brain electrodes fix depression long term.

Deep depression that fails to respond to any other form of therapy can be moderated or reversed by stimulation of areas deep inside the brain. Now the first placebo-controlled study of this procedure shows that these responses can be maintained in the long term.

Neurologist Helen Mayberg at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, followed ten patients with major depressive disorder and seven with bipolar disorder, or manic depression, after an electrode device was implanted in the subcallosal cingulate white matter of their brains and the area continuously stimulated.

All but one of twelve patients who reached the two-year point in the study had completely shed their depression or had only mild symptoms.

The idea of stimulating brains with electricity or magnets in my or anyone’s brain feels disturbing. It sounds like all these went through it as a matter of last resort. Last weekend I watched a called Blood & Guts: A History of Surgery on the brain. There is a scene where a guy is touching his nose repeatedly and using intense magnetic fields prevent the subject from being able to control muscles. My spine shivers every time I watch this. (So why do I watch it over and over?)

Of course, an old way of solving this was trans-orbital lobotomies. Take an ice pick and hammer it through the upper eye socket (the orbit) into the prefrontal cortex. Hook me up to electrodes, please…