Classic economic theory is based on the assumption that humans are self-interested and rational actors, and casts doubt on the very existence of altruism. New research in both economics and neuroscience reveals a much richer and more complex picture of humanity, where altruism and compassion are not only part of the equation but also can be encouraged and learned. Further, research is revealing that pro-social behavior is critical for the survival of humanity, while egoistic and non-altruistic behavior are antithetical to human well-being. These findings have profound implications for public policy and the shaping of future institutions, even as the recent global financial crisis shows how vulnerable economic systems are to negative human behaviors such as corruption and greed.
LOCATION: Zürich, Switzerland
Mind & Life Chief Scientific Advisor, Center for Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin-Madison