Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Neuroscientific Basis of Virtue

A New Science of Virtues Symposium: January 28-30, 2010
Susan Greenfield, University of Oxford

"Whilst virtue can be manifest in many forms, for example, generosity, compassion, restraint or wisdom, antithetical traits might now be characterising the culture of the 21st Century: selfishness, low empathy, poor self-control, and hedonism. We could also add a further reciprocal pair of behaviours: the virtue of being mindful of consequences versus the recklessness that President Obama recently identified as lying at the core of the current financial crisis. The aim of this project is to explore the brain mechanisms that could be critical in triggering behaviours such as recklessness, poor self-control and reduced empathy;
most importantly, we plan to investigate at the level of the physical brain, the hypothesis that such ‘non-virtuous’ behaviours could be accentuated by the highly novel 21st Century environment of digital age technology. Only then can we ensure that such technologies are harnessed in a way that minimises any threat and maximises the potential for virtue. Between 1996 and 2005, 179 scholarly scientific papers were published investigating addiction to the internet and video games. Indeed, one particular study reports that a child between the age of 10-11 years old spends, on average, 900 hours in class, 1277 hours with their family, and 1934 hours in front of a screen (either television or computer). If the screen-based lifestyle of the 21st century is an unprecedented and pervasive phenomenon, then what effect might prolonged and frequent video gaming and Internet use have on the mental state of a species whose most basic talent is a highly sensitive adaptability to whatever environment in which it is placed?"

No comments:

Post a Comment