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Trust, Greed and Moral Bastards

cooperation, originally uploaded by Kaká.

An op ed article by Paul Zak identifies problems with the oxytocin response as the vause of the corruption we see in business today. Zak is one of the neuroeconomics  researchers who operates "trust games." He's found that when people begin to trust each other during a game, their oxytocin levels go up. Moreover, when they sniff oxytocin, they play the game more trustingly.

He writes that we're wired to trust, so cooperation feels good. That enjoyment of cooperation is what keeps business humming along: I trust you to pay me tomorrow for the hamburger I produced and shipped today.

In the Taipei Times, Zak writes:

    We have also found that about two percent of undergraduates we studied are pure non-cooperators. When they have an opportunity to share money with a stranger who has trusted him or her, non-cooperators keep all the money rather than share the largess.

    The technical term in my lab for these people is "bastards."

    Our evidence suggests that bastards' brains work differently. Their character traits are similar to those of sociopaths.

    They simply do not care about others the way most people do, and the dysfunctional processing of oxytocin in their brains appears to be one reason for this.

It's not  inevitable that these moral bastards would rise to the top in business, but today's  empahsis on "driving shareholder value" over creating  businesses that produce value to employees and customers has opened the door to  these predators.