Morality Emotional and Physical Not Spiritual, Study Suggests

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Morality Emotional and Physical Not Spiritual, Study Suggests

  Brain Co-Opts the Body to Promote Moral Behavior, Study Finds  

ScienceDaily (July 8, 2011) — The human brain may simulate physical sensations to prompt introspection, capitalizing on moments of high emotion to promote moral behavior, according to a USC researcher.

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang of the USC Brain and Creativity Institute and the USC Rossier School of Education found that individuals who were told stories designed to evoke compassion and admiration for virtue sometimes reported that they felt a physical sensation in response. These psycho-physical "pangs" of emotion are very real -- they're detectable with brain scans -- and may be evidence that pro-social behavior is part of human survival.

Immordino-Yang's hypothesis, borne out thus far by her research, is that the feeling or emotional reactions in the body may sometimes prompt introspection, and can ultimately promote moral choices and motivation to help or emulate others.

"These emotions are foundational for morality and social learning. They have the power to change the course of your very life," Immordino-Yang said.

Her article appears in the July issue of Emotion Review.

In one instance cited in the article, a participant responded to a story of a little boy's selflessness toward his mother by reporting that he felt like there was a "balloon or something under my sternum, inflating and moving up and out." While pondering this physical sensation, the participant paused for a moment and considered his own relationship with his parents. Ultimately, he voiced a promise to express more gratitude toward them.

Researchers noted similar reactions to varying degrees in the test's other participants. Immordino-Yang's team has performed about 50 of these qualitative analyses in Beijing and at USC. The researchers provide the emotional story, then record the participant's reaction, and also use brain scans to record the physiological response.

"It's a systematic but naturalistic way to induce these emotions." Immordino-Yang said. After being told an emotional true story during a private, taped interview, the participant is simply asked to describe how he or she feels.

Immordino-Yang said she isn't surprised at the findings, though she is excited by them.

"We are an intensely social species," she said. "Our very biology is a social one. For centuries poets have described so-called gut feelings during social emotions. Now we are uncovering the biological evidence."

Future analysis of the data her team has gathered will focus on discovering to what degree culture and individual styles and experiences influence these reactions, as well as how they develop in children and how they can be promoted by education.

This research was supported by the Brain and Creativity Institute, the USC Provost's grant for Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Rossier School of Education.      


"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck

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 Yeah, looks like it's

 Yeah, looks like it's real. Feelings of love are felt in the middle of chest. Gut feelings or feelings of collective allegiance can be felt in solar plexus. There are more parallels, of course, in dedicated literature.

Maybe it's not surprising, but these feelings seem to occur in areas of major endocrine glands, in the axis of spine. Adrenals, thymus, gonads, etc. 

The interesting thing is, that this can be exploited reversely. For example, I can produce such feelings on demand in full physical intensity, without the need to feel an emotion first. 

According to my observations, these areas are major energy centers of the etheric body. I can easily fire up a particular center with increased flow of energy. And then deal with consequences. Concentration of energy in a particular chakra may be pleasant, but if I overdo it, also rather painful. Once I almost managed to faint due to carelessness, not a pretty memory.

Focusing attention in the chakras doesn't only work for emotions, but can be also used to induce euphoria or meditation. Some martial arts use focusing in the hara point to increase physical strength. Theoretically, it should also work with the base chakra and increasing sexual potency. But someone familiar with this form of Tantra should tell more on that subject.

I had a friend, a gifted artist who did graphics professionally and music as a hobby. He reported, that he feels something like this buzzing open vortex on his forehead, when he really gets into creative work. 
Guess where Ajna chakra is located.  For me, this sensation is very strong and almost permanent, even leading to headaches. Hell, when I have a headache, I feel the lines of my meridians hurt in their appropriate place. According to the lines of pain, they start aching at the base of neck, then all across the head and they connect to Ajna chakra from the left and right side, just like in the textbooks. Well, isn't that great. 

Anyway, these sensations of chakras plus all the etheric body and more are in my case often stronger than awareness of muscles, bones, skin, etc... Which is probably unimaginable for most of people. It isn't always pleasant as you see, but it's something that can be tested. I mean, how were the tests done? What machine and what did they measure? They measured the physical sensation, or emotions that led to it?

I'm glad to see such a research, but they should do it more detailed and not just focused on emotions. The link with morality is interesting. I mean, if I feel a literal pain from emotions, I might reconsider my actions. Or if my ajna chakra hurts like hell, I might try to use my head less and do some sports instead. (it helps a bit) So basically, emotion + physical sensation is better for morality than just an emotion. 

Beings who deserve worship don't demand it. Beings who demand worship don't deserve it.