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The Enchanted Loom reviews Donald Pfaff's book, The Neuroscience of Fair Play


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In this very readable account, neuroscience professor Donald Pfaff makes a compelling argument that healthy human beings come into the world pre-wired for good behavior, to abide by The Golden Rule. That wiring can be compromised however by adverse consequences of the surrounding environment.

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The Enchanted Loom reviews Donald Pfaff's book, The Neuroscience of Fair Play

  1. 1. The Enchanted Loom Teasing sturdy threads from neuroscience masterworks
  2. 2. Teasing 10 threads from Donald Pfaff’s…
  3. 3. Thread 1: Some rules of behavior are universally embedded in the human brain – we are “wired for good behavior.” (pg. 2)
  4. 4. Thread 2: I propose that we have an inherent capacity for fair play. I say we are wired for recip- rocity. (pg. 206)
  5. 5. Thread 3: The amygdala can be viewed not as a “fear center,” but as a crucial node in the fear circuitry. However, our more complex fearful thoughts arise from the infor- mation-processing power of our cerebral cortex. (pg. 28)
  6. 6. Thread 4: The two sides of the prefrontal cortex support opposite states of mind. Higher activity in the left prefrontal cortex produces a sense of well- being; higher activity on the right is more often associated with misery. (pg. 47)
  7. 7. Thread 5: Stress hormones cripple the parts of the brain that shut them off, so we have a vicious circle that causes them to soar. This vicious circle strengthens with age; worse, it may even acceler- ate aging. (pg. 58)
  8. 8. Thread 6: The amygdala is a brain structure that keeps emerging as a key to upholding The Golden Rule. (pg. 112)
  9. 9. Thread 7: “War is in fact one of the most rigidly ‘gendered’ activities known to humankind.” The incidence of murder of males by unrelated males closely parallels testosterone con- centration in a man’s bloodstream. (pg. 126)
  10. 10. Thread 8: Risk factors for violence include poverty during childhood, trouble during early school years, harsh and erratic parental discipline, physical abuse and neglect, humiliation, lack of parental nurturance and a large family. (pg. 147)
  11. 11. Thread 9: Earliest interventions into the lives of children most at risk are the most effective. (pg. 155)
  12. 12. Thread 10: The situation regarding the violence against women looks so gloomy that it may be appro- priate to consider quite drastic measures: chemical castration with LHRH to reduce testosterone. (pg. 157)
  13. 13. Thread 11: Infancy and adolescence are particularly sensitive periods when environmental factors can produce their most crucial effects. (pg. 180)
  14. 14. Image Credits: Title Page: Slide 3 - Slide 12 - Slide 2 - Slide 6 - Slide 5 - Slide 11 - Slide 10 - Slide 14 - Slide 9 - Slide 8 - Slide 7 - Slide 4 - Slide 13 -
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