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Moving Beyond Self-InterestPerspectives from Evolutionary Biology, Neuroscience, and the Social Sciences$
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Stephanie L. Brown, R. Michael Brown, and Louis A. Penner

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388107

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388107.001.0001

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The Human Caregiving System

The Human Caregiving System

A Neuroscience Model of Compassionate Motivation and Behavior

5 The Human Caregiving System
Moving Beyond Self-Interest

Stephanie L. Brown

R. Michael Brown

Stephanie D. Preston

Oxford University Press

In this essay we describe the essential features of a neurobiological system whose purpose is to provide the motivation needed to bestow resources on others—the “caregiving system.” After presenting a brief review of the evolutionary theoretical background, we describe how insights from selective investment theory and animal models of maternal care can be used to identify caregiving neural circuitry that may be involved in human helping behavior. At a minimum, we suggest that caregiving neural circuitry should be responsive to need in others, manage motivational conflict, and be selectively attuned to cues that there is a low risk of exploitation. We conclude with some implications of this model, including challenges it poses to views of human motivation that emphasize self-interest.

Keywords:   Caregiving system, selective investment theory, altruism, neurobiology, social bonds, oxytocin, social neuroscience

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