Moving Beyond Self-Interest: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology, Neuroscience, and the Social Sciences
Moving Beyond Self-Interest is an interdisciplinary volume that discusses cutting-edge developments in the science of caring for and helping others. In Part I, contributors raise foundational issues related to human caregiving. They present new theories and data to show how natural selection might have shaped a genuinely altruistic drive to benefit others, how this drive intersects with the attachment and caregiving systems, and how it emerges from a broader social engagement system made possible by symbiotic regulation of autonomic physiological states. In Part II, contributors propose a new neurophysiological model of the human caregiving system and present arguments and evidence to show how mammalian neural circuitry that supports parenting might be recruited to direct human cooperation and competition, human empathy, and parental and romantic love. Part III is devoted to the psychology of human caregiving. Some contributors in this section show how an evolutionary perspective helps us better understand parental investment in and empathic concern for children at risk for, or suffering from, various health, behavioral, and cognitive problems. Other contributors identify circumstances that differentially predict caregiver benefits and costs, and raise the question of whether extreme levels of compassion are actually pathological. The section concludes with a discussion of semantic and conceptual obstacles to the scientific investigation of caregiving. Part IV focuses on possible interfaces between new models of caregiving motivation and economics, political science, and social policy development. In this section, contributors show how the new theory and research discussed in this volume can inform our understanding of economic utility, policies for delivering social services (such as health care and education), and hypotheses concerning the origins and development of human society, including some of its more problematic features of nationalism, conflict, and war. The chapters in this volume help readers appreciate the human capacity for engaging in altruistic acts, on both a small and large scale.