Chapter

Psychological and Neurological Sources of Primitive Prosocial Behaviors

Dennis L. Krebs

in The Origins of Morality

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199778232
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897261 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199778232.003.0023
Psychological and Neurological Sources of Primitive Prosocial Behaviors

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This chapter discusses theory and research on mental mechanisms that mediate primitive prosocial behaviors, including the neuro-hormonal mechanisms that mediate impulsive helping behaviors and those that give rise to such emotional reactions as fear, admiration, sympathy, gratitude, pride, guilt, shame, indignation, vindictiveness, and forgiveness. Evidence that empathy and sympathy dispose people to want to help others as an end in itself is reviewed. It is argued that the emotions that mediate prosocial behaviors evolved because they disposed people to forgo immediate benefits and to suffer immediate costs in order to maximize long-term gains. Emotionally-mediated dispositions to make commitments and to invest in members of their groups evolved because the fitness of those making the investments was linked to the fitness of those in whom they invested, and because the long-term benefits of credibility and a reputation for trustworthiness outweighed the short-term costs of keeping promises and carrying out threats.

Keywords: neurohormonal processes; impulsive helping; fear; admiration; sympathy; gratitude; pride; guilt; shame; indignation; vindictiveness; forgiveness; empathy; costly investments; commitments

Chapter.  9224 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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