Global Sensemaking

Tools for Dialogue and Deliberation on Wicked Problems


Human Nature

Driving everything else in forming our world are human decisions and actions. Human nature ultimately holds the key to understanding why our world is going in the direction it is. This group is dedicated to explorations of HN in this context.

Members: 14
Latest Activity: Dec 10, 2012

Discussion Forum

Hijacking of the mankind's agenda by powerful groups

Started by jagannath rao adukuri Oct 19, 2008.

Comment Wall

Comment by Tim Zebo on August 20, 2008 at 21:00
Just read a fascinating article in June, 2008, Scientific American: "The Neurobiology of Trust" by Paul J. Zak. Unlike women, men "in trying social circumstances" experience a rise in "high octane" testosterone (DHT) which boosts their desire to fight. Amazingly, 2% of the people studied trusted no one, and "were indifferent to another's suffering.” Because this group had unusually high levels of oxytocin in their blood, and animal studies show this hormone predicts more nurturing behaviors not less, they may simply have defective brain receptors for oxytocin.
Bottom Line
Imagine if we could test for these brain abnormalities at birth, and be able to make statements like, “This child has a 95% probability of becoming a sociopath within 10 years”. I’m guessing it will take this kind of science before we can begin to end the recurring conflicts and human rights abuses we see today.
Comment by Spaceweaver on September 11, 2008 at 2:22
A question I am very interested in is whether the neural architecture of the brain, imposes fundamental constraints on human nature. If we are to sketch a model of human nature, will it be a more or less closed model with well defined plasticity, or will it be an open ended model with well defined constraints.
Comment by George E. Mobus on September 11, 2008 at 17:25

After taking a look at your blog site, I can understand your interest.

Not knowing your background beyond that, I don't want to be presumptuous in recommending some references if you've already seen them. But I think there has been a descent amount of headway in neuroscience over the last ten years to start formulating an outline answer to your thought query.

My current research interests include the search for sapience - the brain basis of wisdom. You can take a look at my research page at:

If you scroll down a bit you will see a bibliography link that has some of the more helpful books I've read over the years. Right now I'm just finishing up Dan Goleman's work, "Social Intelligence". He draws heavily on neuroscience and especially work on mirror neurons in explaining a lot of our social thinking and feelings.
Comment by Craig Simon on September 17, 2008 at 2:40
Hi folks,

I joined GSM some months ago because of an interest in David Price's DebateGraph concept. I just checked back, and noticed this "Human Nature" group. Sounds appealing.

It happens that I presented a conference paper this past summer which some of you may find interesting. (It was very well received, and I've substantially extended it since then.) My paper argues, among other things, that human nature includes a biologically-evolved capacity for free will.

The link below opens it as a PDF. I'd be happy to hear your views.

Deriving Common Interests
Comment by Tim Zebo on September 24, 2008 at 2:04
Political attitudes linked to startle reflexes

"When we're suddenly confronted with a shocking image, our skin becomes moist and we blink strongly. These actions are automatic and unintentional; they happen without conscious thought. So it may come as a surprise that they can also predict some of our most seemingly considered beliefs - our political attitudes.

According to a new American study, the stronger these responses, the more likely people are to support the Iraq War, Biblical truth, the Patriot Act and greater defense budgets. Conversely, people who show weaker "startle reflexes" are more likely to support foreign aid, immigration, gay marriage and abortion rights.

Douglas Oxley from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln led the study and he suggests that the factor that unites these attitudes is an interest in protecting one's social structure from threats. These "threats" can come both from abroad or from within; they can be physical dangers like hostile foreign powers, or threats to the status quo, such as policies that violate longstanding traditions.

That responses so involuntary could be linked to views which we hold to be reasoned and considered is certainly surprising, but Oxley is very careful in how he interprets his results. He notes that so far, he has only found a correlation - an association between the a person's political attitudes and the way their body responds to startling sensations. The results say nothing about whether one causes the other- they don't conclude that reactions to threats predispose people to one end of the political spectrum or conversely, that such beliefs cause people to react to threats in certain ways. And they definitely don't suggest that being easily startled makes you conservative, while nonchalance in the face of threats begets liberalism.

Oxley's conclusion is simply that political beliefs have some foundation in our basic biology and are not solely the product of experience, knowledge or upbringing. To a degree, differences in opinion correspond to differences in the way our bodies work, such that people who, for example, support the death penalty are physiologically different from those who, say, advocate gay marriage. "
Comment by Tim Zebo on October 10, 2008 at 21:12
The Real Difference between Liberals and Conservatives: Jonathan Ha...

Haidt describes how differently Liberals and Conservatives see the world. I'd like to get this video watched by every person in the world over the age of 12!

From the website (click on link above):
"Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most. And he challenges all of us to step outside of our moral Matrix and pledge to work toward a more civil, productive political process. (Recorded February 2008 in Monterey, California. Duration: 18:42.) "

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