Re: [asa] The Spiritual Brain

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Mon Oct 08 2007 - 12:49:01 EDT

> @ From where did they recruit the people that were chosen to play this
> "ultimatum game"?

The twin study recruited large numbers of twins in Sweden, but the
basic game has been tried on numerous people from many places.

> Only highly ungrateful, covetous mentalities would cut their noses off to
> spite their faces and want to "punish" those who they perceive as having
> more than they do.

It's not exactly perceiving that the others have more than they. The
scenario is that a certain lump sum (often cash when people are the
subjects) is available. Person one (not directly met by person 2)
makes an offer "I'll take x% and leave you the rest. If person 1 is
greedy and wants to take most of it for himself, person 2 often
rejects the offer, leaving neither with anything. It's a small-scale
example of imposing perceived fairness on others despite personal
cost, and correlates with greater willingness to share.

Of course, this is a rather simplistic scenario attempting to produce
an easily replicated test of people's inclinations. Foregoing a small
share of the reward in order to punish greed in another could be spite
or a strong sense of fairness or various other motives. Conversely,
whichever chimp was #1 was usually greedy by human standards, but
exactly how they would perceive it is certainly speculative. It's not
amenable to simply labeling the humans as bad and chimp good. I
suspect there are connections to the ability to recognize another
individual as having needs and desires like oneself, an ability
apparently largely confined to humans as far as we know and which is a
key part of moral responsibility.

> "..It seems man's best friend has lost a part of its brain that kept much
> of its wolf instincts. On the other hand.. it has gained the ability to
> understand pointing. When we point at something, a fellow human
> automatically transfers its attention to the object we point to, rather than
> just staring at the hand. So does a dog with just a little training. Wolves
> do not, and neither do chimps or any other species known to man. ...the
> capacity to point and to understand pointing is everything..."

Actually, several species in domestication do this. Tamed foxes can
do the same; wild ones don't. Our eastern painted turtle seemed to
learn to follow our pointing from outside his tank to find a cheerio
or bug (no rigorous experimental setup).

Many animals have some way of communicating that something of interest
or concern is in a particular direction, even if they lack the ability
to point.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Mon Oct 8 12:54:16 2007

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