Can A Pill Make Us More Moral?

Mar 19, 2012

If I tell you that today's show looks into the near future and sees a wave of new drugs and other therapies that can enhance moral behavior, maybe you'll tell me: enough with the science fiction. But in some ways, the drugs are already here.

Oxytocin, sometimes known as the love hormone, increases empathy and social bonding.  And oxytocin can already be taken -- for other reasons -- in nasal spray form.

Among the effects of Prozac are lowered aggression. So maybe, administered in the right way, it could make a lot of users "better people." And surely there are more to come. After a decade or so of studying the neuroimages of moral decision making, scientists are getting a handle on what parts of the brain light up during good guy behavior and its opposite.

Maybe widespread application of those drugs seems unlikely, but today we'll look at how they can quickly become part of several debates raging now.

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