"Serotonin influences the use of social norms in resource dilemmas" by Prof Robert Rogers and "Prosociality and trust" by Prof Paul A.M. Van Lange

Past Event

15 November 2013, 6:00pm - 8:00pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

This seminar is a collaboration between the Oxford Martin School, the Oxford Martin Programme on Resource Stewardship and the Institute of Science and Ethics

First Speaker: Professor Robert Rogers, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the School of Psychology, Bangor University and Senior Research Fellow, Jesus College Oxford

Title: ‘Serotonin influences the use of social norms in resource dilemmas: experimental and clinical observations’

Summary: How do people sustain resources for the benefit of individuals and communities and avoid the 'Tragedy of the Commons' in which shared resources become exhausted? In this series of experiments, we examined the role of serotonin activity and underlying neural systems, focusing upon the importance of social norms in the management of valuable but depletable resources. The results allow us to connect an understanding of the neurobiology of social function to important decisions about the community use of resources and their sustainability. We also provide new information about how experimental models of resource management problems might help us to understand social isolation in clinical populations such as individuals with depression and other psychiatric illnesses.

Second Speaker: Professor Paul Van Lange, Professor of Social Psychology and Chair of the Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, VU University at Amsterdam

Title: Prosociality and trust

Summary: The assumption of self-interest has been quite central in classic theorizing of human cooperation. The present research focuses on two theoretical claims that challenge and complement this reasoning. The first claim is that people differ systematically in how they approach social dilemmas. Some people tend to cooperate, give others the benefit of doubt (prosocials), while other people primarily pursue their self-interest, either in absolute terms (individualists) or in relative terms (competitors). We discuss psychological and neuroscientific evidence showing that for prosocials, it is essential that they count on reciprocity. In contrast, for individualists, they may switch to cooperation if they come to be convinced that they can count on reciprocity. I also discuss recent field research showing a pronounced link with the choice to study psychology versus economics, political orientations, and “social mindfulness”. The second claim is that social dilemma research often assumes that people always “see” the cooperative option, or that people are always “can” act in cooperative manner. This is not always true, and it are these circumstances that challenge cooperation in such a manner that we tend to overestimate self-interested motivation in others. I illustrate this claim with research on incompleteness of information in social dilemmas, and close by discussing a new program of research on cultural and genetic differences in trust.

Chair: Professor Julian Savulescu, Director, Institute for Science and Ethics and Principal Investigator, Oxford Martin Programme on Resource Stewardship

All welcome. Please register above.