The PFC and Enculturation: Reducing violence Flashcards Preview

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Brain development, mirrors brain evolution

Cortical expansion during evolution matches it during development (Hill et al, 2010).

Newer PFC regions (lateral and polar) are better learning devices (Passingham & Wise, 2012).
- more open to cultural influences than species whose brains stop developing much earlier and therefore more influenced by their genes.

Human groups first showed extensive signs of becoming sedentary in the middle stone age (Ingman et al, 2000; Lewin & Foley, 2004).

Leads to more systematic child-rearing.


The consequences of a longer developmental period

Greater stimulation during a child's development.
- ethical, moral, cognitive and behavioural codes (Csibra & Gergely, 1998; Moreno, 2002).

Humans characterised by an especially prolonged period of postnatal brain development.
- during which cultural traditions and practices are acquired - eg. language (Biachi et al, 2013).


What are memes?

= an idea that spreads from person to person in a culture - eg. fashion, melodies, catch-phrases, religions etc.
- imitated thing (Dawkins, 1976).

Can replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.

Cultural evolution.

Behaviour also determined by memetic, socio-cultural influences.



Why are we so violent?

Where did people derive their moral approach to human on human violence?



1st part of the divine comedy.
- hell depicted as 9 circles of suffering.
- punishment for sins represents poetic justice.
- medieval world view as developed by the western church.

1. limbo
2. lust
3. gluttony
4. greed
5. anger
6. heresy
7. violent
8. fraud
9. treachery


Violence, morality and religion

Abraham undergoes test or moral values when God orders him to kill his son, Isaac - spared by an angel.

Isaac's son's daughter raped and offered to by as a wife but moral principle in the way - uncircumcised.

Angels vs daughters:
- Lot was spared with his family for being uniquely righteous.
- Lot's halo was tarnished by refusing to leave the city by two angels...
- Dawkins (2006): if this dysfunctional family was the best offered in the way of morals, some might feel sympathetic toward God.

Catherine wheel: used for capital punishment in the middle ages.

Hanged, drawn and quartered: for reasons of public decency.
- women burned at the state.


Crime and punishment (and entertainment)

Practical function of cruel punishments was just a part of their appeal.

Spectators enjoyed even with no judicial purpose.

Systemic cruelty not exclusive to Europe.

Hundreds of methods of torture, applied to millions of victims.


What happened to violence?

We now have a brain that learns well and is ready for enculturation (meme).
= gradual acquisition of characteristics and norms of a culture or group by a person, other culture etc.

How did this contribute to the reduction in violence?

OFC: increased empathy?
LPFC: increased self control?
LPFC: increased rationality?

Pinker argues there is a significant change in the cortex that has led to the reduction in violence.


Empathy and the OPFC

Ability to understand and share another's feelings.

An expansion for empathy may be able to explain why people renounce cruel punishments today and think more about the human costs of war (Pinker, 2011).


The expanding circle

Singer (2011) has argued that the circle of people we feel empathy for has expanded.
- due to fiction etc.
- exposure to feelings of others contributes.


Orbital frontal cortex

Inputs to the OC (gut feelings) allow it to serve as the regulator of emotional life.
- can be described in terms of reward and punishment - seek out rewarding feelings.

Visceral feelings of anger, warmth, fear and disgust are combines with person's goals.
- modulating signals are computed and sent back down to emotional structures from which they originated = control of emotions.


Life and death with smaller OFC

Violence-prone people with ASPD have smaller and less metabolically active OFCs.
- as were other parts of emotional brain - eg. amygdala.

Other areas linked with anti-social behaviour:
- angular gyrus.
- superior TG.
- ventral prefrontal.
- fronto-polar/medial prefrontal.



Regions of the brain that handle social emotions (Eg. amygdala and OC) are relatively shrunken or unresponsive - Schelling, 1984.

In some, signs develop after damage - also partly heritable.



With lesions in OFC have trouble fitting in to dominance hierarchies and get into more fights.

Don't understand social roles.

Emphasises the OFCs relation to social behaviour.

Involved in understanding social hierarchies.

Reduced OFC - may have trouble processing own feelings as well as others.


OFC and morality

Runaway trolley dilemma (Greene et al, 2004):
5 vs. 1.

Visceral gut feeling reaction against changing track comes from amygdala and OFC.

Those with PFC and OFC lesions more likely to send loner to death - no emotional engagement.


Importance of orbitomedial regions in decision-making

Evidence that OFC is important in some forms of decision making (eg. not murdering people).

Stanovich and the "Mr Spock problem":
- supposedly makes best decisions because detached from emotions.
- however, some emotions enable us to make more sensible decisions.

Damisio (1994) and the "somatic marker" hypothesis of OM function:
- emotional reactions with strong somatic component that support rational decision making.
- based on previous experiences.

People can have high IQ but make poor decisions.


Primitive OFC

OFC = primitive part of the cerebrum.
- inputs from the gut.

Also no strong evidence for relative expansion of regions involved in empathy during evolution.

For these regions Pinker argues that empathy is therefore unlikely to be the strongest determining force in violence reduction.


A sentimental idea?

Empathy today is becoming what love was.
- overrated as reducer for violence (Pinker, 2011).

Increased ingroup but still an outgroup (Batson et al, 1995).

Empathy can be switched on and off - unlikely to be solely responsible.
- still more provoked by those close to us.
- enveloped around small groups.
- charities tell a story about single child to manipulate - dark side.


Increased self control?: self indulgence

Implications for out actions.

Weight gain from eating.
Prison from violence.


Increased self control?: Leviation

Systems of government needed to provide threat of punishments.

Overtime, get used to exercising self-control and get better as a result.
- civilising process.


Increased self control?: two forms of self control - hot vs. cool

Hot = patients with OFC damage are impulsive, irresponsible, distractible, socially inappropriate and sometimes violent - eg. PG (Anderson, 99).

Cool = more rule-drive forms of self-control in lateral and polar regions of PFC.
- most expanded in evolution.


Increased self control?: Greene et al (2004)

Runaway trolley.

Utilitarian thinking that saves greater number of lives comes from the DLPFC/BA10.
- same result as psychopaths but more hesitation/doubt.

Cooler part of the brain makes decision to divert the trolley.
- more rational, saves more lives.


Increased self control?: McClure et al (2004)

Participants chose between small immediate reward or larger reward later.

Immediate gratification - lit up striatum and medial OFC.

All choices lit up DLPFC.
- when more active participants chose larger reward.
- involved in resisting temptation/subduing an immediate impulse.
- part of the brain that makes you think twice.


Increased self control?: OFC/hot vs DLPFC/cool

OFC - provides somatic markers.
- "murder is wrong"; "take money and run".
- nothing wrong with taking immediate reward but not wiser choice.

DLPFC - rule drive.
- needed for thoughtful and moral decisions.


Age of reason

Pinker, 2011: argues "age of reason" has led to reduction of violence.

People began to sympathise with more humans and no longer indifferent to their suffering.
- humanitarian revolution.

Reason led to more intellectually demanding work, scientific method and use of abstract technology and modes of thought.
- no evidence of this increased connectivity within the expanding part of the brain.


The Flynn effect

Memes led to greater capacity for this type of thinking - eg. alternative possible futures/misrepresenting.

Pinker (2011) described Flynn effect (1987) = gradual increase in IQ over generations (by 3-4 IQ).
- across cultures.
- human race getting smarter - slower now than before.

Increase in abstract problem solving ability - associated with lateral and polar PFC (Duncan (2010).


Better learning devices

Cortical expansion during evolution matches expansion during development (Hill et al, 2010).
- not only are regions expanded but also more plastic to allow for memetic influences.

Reduction in violence is an example of how evolutionary newer regions provide hardware for new software.
- provides learning devices.

These newer regions are better learning devices (Passingham & Wise, 2012) - lateral and polar PFC.

Reduction in violence is a consequence of better learning devices conferred to us by the expansion for the FC in the contribution to evolution of civilisation.