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Book and Media Reviews
May 17, 2006

Neuroscience, Morality

Author Affiliations
 

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;295(19):2302-2305. doi:10.1001/jama.295.19.2304

Samuel Clemens was a mischievous child and adult and an unparalleled humorist. In Tom Sawyer, written under his penname, Mark Twain, Tom and his buddy Huckleberry Finn witness a murder. Both boys swear to “remain mum” about the act for fear that the murderer will kill them. In the end both boys exhibit moral behavior and do right. The murderer does not amend his ways.

The basis for moral behavior is an important and universal topic that has long interested writers, philosophers, religious leaders, and scientists. Recent advances in neuroscience have provided tools that allow the study of how we behave. These tools have produced evidence that behavior, moral and immoral, has biological correlates. In Hardwired Behavior: What Neuroscience Reveals About Morality, Lawrence Tancredi tackles the neurobiological basis of moral behavior. Dr Tancredi is an American psychiatrist and lawyer who has been involved in cases of extreme behavior, as both a therapist and an expert. While the author uses cases to highlight behaviors such as murder, drug abuse, and addiction, this is not simply a book of case histories.

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