Why are some of us caring and some of us cruel, some generous and some greedy? Paul J. Zak on the new science of morality— and how it could be used to create a more virtuous society.


By Paul J. Zak, WSJ, 27 April 2012.

Why are some people trustworthy, while others lie, cheat and steal? Part of the answer may reside in a hormone called oxytocin. Claremont Graduate University's Paul Zak talks with WSJ's Gary Rosen about how a "vampire wedding" helped him understand how this chemical works to control trust, empathy and virtue.

Could a single molecule—one chemical substance—lie at the very center of our moral lives?

Research that I have done over the past decade suggests that a chemical messenger called oxytocin accounts for why some people give freely of themselves and others are coldhearted louts, why some people cheat and steal and others you can trust with your life, why some husbands are more faithful than others, and why women tend to be nicer and more generous than men. In our blood and in the brain, oxytocin appears to be the chemical elixir that creates bonds of trust not just in our intimate relationships but also in our business dealings, in politics and in society at large.

Known primarily as a female reproductive hormone, oxytocin controls contractions during labor, which is where many women encounter it as Pitocin, the synthetic version that doctors inject in expectant mothers to induce delivery. Oxytocin is also responsible for the calm, focused attention that mothers lavish on their babies while breast-feeding. And it is abundant, too, on wedding nights (we hope) because it helps to create the warm glow that both women and men feel during sex, a massage or even a hug.

Since 2001, my colleagues and I have conducted a number of experiments showing that when someone's level of oxytocin goes up, he or she responds more generously and caringly, even with complete strangers. As a benchmark for measuring behavior, we relied on the willingness of our subjects to share real money with others in real time. To measure the increase in oxytocin, we took their blood and analyzed it. Money comes in conveniently measurable units, which meant that we were able to quantify the increase in generosity by the amount someone was willing to share. We were then able to correlate these numbers with the increase in oxytocin found in the blood.

Later, to be certain that what we were seeing was true cause and effect, we sprayed synthetic oxytocin into our subjects' nasal passages—a way to get it directly into their brains. Our conclusion: We could turn the behavioral response on and off like a garden hose. (Don't try this at home: Oxytocin inhalers aren't available to consumers in the U.S.)

More strikingly, we found that you don't need to shoot a chemical up someone's nose, or have sex with them, or even give them a hug in order to create the surge in oxytocin that leads to more generous behavior. To trigger this "moral molecule," all you have to do is give someone a sign of trust. When one person extends himself to another in a trusting way—by, say, giving money—the person being trusted experiences a surge in oxytocin that makes her less likely to hold back and less likely to cheat. Which is another way of saying that the feeling of being trusted makes a person more…trustworthy. Which, over time, makes other people more inclined to trust, which in turn…

If you detect the makings of an endless loop that can feed back onto itself, creating what might be called a virtuous circle—and ultimately a more virtuous society—you are getting the idea.

Obviously, there is more to it, because no one chemical in the body functions in isolation, and other factors from a person's life experience play a role as well. Things can go awry. In our studies, we found that a small percentage of subjects never shared any money; analysis of their blood indicated that their oxytocin receptors were malfunctioning. But for everyone else, oxytocin orchestrates the kind of generous and caring behavior that every culture endorses as the right way to live—the cooperative, benign, pro-social way of living that every culture on the planet describes as "moral." The Golden Rule is a lesson that the body already knows, and when we get it right, we feel the rewards immediately.

This isn't to say that oxytocin always makes us good or generous or trusting. In our rough-and-tumble world, an unwavering response of openness and loving kindness would be like going around with a "kick me" sign on your back. Instead, the moral molecule works like a gyroscope, helping us to maintain our balance between behavior based on trust and behavior based on wariness and distrust. In this way oxytocin helps us to navigate between the social benefits of openness—which are considerable—and the reasonable caution that we need to avoid being taken for a ride.

Consider a real-life experiment that I conducted with a bride named Linda Geddes. A writer for the British magazine New Scientist, Linda had been following my research and thought it would be fun to see if the emotional uplift of her wedding would alter the guests' levels of oxytocin.

I arrived at the venue, a Victorian manor house in the English countryside, with a 150-pound centrifuge and 70 pounds of dry ice. I unpacked my equipment—syringes, 156 prelabeled test tubes, tourniquets, alcohol preps, Band-Aids—and got to work. The plan that I'd worked out with Linda was to take two samples from a cross section of the friends and family in attendance—one draw of blood immediately before the vows and one immediately after.

After all the blood had been drawn, I slipped out with my test tubes nestled in their cushion of dry ice. It took two weeks for the samples to arrive at my California lab via FedEx, but the results showed just what we were hoping for: a simple snapshot of oxytocin's ability to read and reflect the nuances of a social situation.

The changes in individual oxytocin levels at Linda's ceremony could be mapped out like the solar system, with the bride as the sun. Between the first and second draws of blood, which were only an hour apart, Linda's own level shot up by 28%. For the other people tested, the increase in oxytocin was in direct proportion to the likely intensity of their emotional engagement in the event. The mother of the bride? Up 24%. The father of the groom? Up 19%. The groom himself? Up 13%…and on down the line.

But why, you may ask, would the groom's increase be less than his father's? Testosterone is one of several other hormones that can interfere with the release of oxytocin, and the groom's testosterone level, according to our blood test, had surged 100%! As the guests admired Linda in her strapless bridal gown, he was the alpha male.

Our study at the wedding had demonstrated just the kind of graded and contingent sensitivity that allows oxytocin to guide us between trust and wariness, generosity and self-protection. Should I feel safe and warm and cuddly in this crowd, or do I have to be on guard? Or maybe it is a situation in which the best outcome results from oxytocin dominating in one person and testosterone driving the other.

It is the sensitivity of oxytocin in its interaction with a range of other chemical messengers that helps to account for why human behavior is so infinitely complex—and why the bliss of the wedding day (and night) is often hard to maintain. (Consider the old joke about the guy who couldn't understand why his wife was unhappy. "I told you that I loved you when I asked you to marry me," he said. "I don't see why I need to tell you again.")

But there is a larger payoff from this research: After centuries of speculation about human nature and how we decide what is the right thing to do, we at last have some news we can use—empirical evidence that illuminates the mechanism at the heart of our moral guidance system. So what can we do to shift behavior a bit more toward the expression of oxytocin and thus improve the workings of our entire society?

The experiments I have conducted show that many group activities—singing, dancing, praying—cause the release of oxytocin and promote connection and caring. As social creatures, we have created activities that prompt the expression of oxytocin in order to foster connection to others. In fact, those who release the most oxytocin when they are trusted are happier and healthier because they have richer social lives.

Even the sort of "social snacking" that happens through Twitter or checking out a friend's Facebook page can prompt an oxytocin surge. But the real criterion for success is whether these online activities complement more substantial personal connections. Does this form of communication foster human bonds or does it foster anonymity and abstraction to the point of cutting off empathy?

Another approach to tune oxytocin release is to seek exposure to people outside our own families or cultural and geographic "tribes." There are solid evolutionary reasons why our species developed the tendency to be wary of those whose physical appearances or behavioral patterns are different from our own. For millions of years an individual's social world was limited almost entirely to her village and tribe, and outsiders were, for good reason, considered a threat until proven otherwise. Yet research has shown that this suspicion is malleable, and it fades with exposure.

With worries on the rise about the country's cultural and political divisions, some bottom-up boosts of oxytocin, based on face-to-face interaction, could help. It might take the form of a domestic student-exchange program, allowing kids from the big cities and small-town, rural kids to get to know one another. The revitalization of urban life, with its varied and crosscutting relationships, is a step in the right direction, too. One city going in the opposite direction is Washington, D.C., where fraternizing across party lines—once the norm—is nearly unheard of these days. Acrimony on Capitol Hill reflects, in part, these oxytocin-starved relationships.

A few years ago, I began warning visitors to my lab that before they left, I was going to give them a hug. This scares some people, but I've found that my slightly eccentric announcement changes the depth of the conversation, making it more intimate, more engaging and more valuable to us both. I suspect that by forecasting a hug, I'm also signaling how much I trust the person, so I'm inducing a release of oxytocin in their brains. Those people, in turn, will connect better to others and treat them more generously. Nothing grander is required for a virtuous circle to begin.

—From "The Moral Molecule" by Paul J. Zak, to be published May 10 by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA).


While we live abroad, and struggle to compete ever farther and farther from a level playing field in world markets, thanks to the incredibly self-destructive laws and regulations of the United States, it is very interesting to see what a Member of Parliament of another country has been willing to do to try to help protect U.S. citizens and dual nationals living in her country.

These messages and attachments are available on this Canadian Parliamentarian’s website.

Imagine what a different world it could be if overseas Americans had our own direct participants in the U.S. Congress. Perhaps then at least some of the incredible current abuse could be toned down, or far better, totally eliminated.

What is particularly interesting is the attached letter that this Canadian Parliamentarian sent to President Obama last year. There does not seem to have been a response so far.

Enjoy and contemplate the real reasons why the United States is now so deeply into such a nasty fiscal hegemony mode today, and what might be the best therapy to try to treat this potentially suicidal syndrome.

Please also share your thoughts and suggestions too.  Take care,  Andy

File Size: 1031 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

File Size: 1426 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

File Size: 255 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

File Size: 552 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

File Size: 1250 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

File Size: 1217 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File



From the website of:


Member of the Canadian Parliament
From British Columbia
970 Blanshard Street, Victoria, BC V8W 2H3
Tel: 250-363-3600
Email: [email protected]

Dear Constituents,

While I've covered the bulk of new developments in previous posts, I wanted to provide you with a further information update.

On December 14, 2011, at the initiative of Alex Atamanenko, who has been working very hard on this file, Alex Atamanenko, Peter Julian and Hoang Mai met with U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson to address the harsh penalties.

The Ambassador confirmed that while requirements to file will not be relaxed, there was an indication of a possible loosening of the interpretation regarding the application of penalties.

IRS December memo

As I have mentioned previously, In December, the IRS confirmed that U.S. and dual citizens who failed to file their annual income tax returns and/or file under FBAR or pay their tax may be exempted from paying penalties, provided that they are able to show that the failure was due to reasonable cause, not wilful neglect.

Below is a brief outline of the memo, although I encourage you to read the memo in its entirety to get all the details. You can find further information by reading the IRS memo “Information for U.S. Citizens or Dual Citizens Residing Outside the U.S.” at http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=250788,00.html.

“Reasonable cause”

According to the U.S. Ambassador and the IRS memo, the IRS may consider reasonable cause for noncompliance to include being unaware of the requirement to file or pay tax.

The memo further states:

“Whether a failure to file or failure to pay is due to reasonable cause is based on a consideration of the facts and circumstances. Reasonable cause relief is generally granted by the IRS when you demonstrate that you exercised ordinary business care and prudence in meeting your tax obligations but nevertheless failed to meet them. In determining whether you exercised ordinary business care and prudence, the IRS will consider all available information, including:

  • The reasons given for not meeting your tax obligations;
  • Your compliance history;
  • The length of time between your failure to meet your tax obligations and your subsequent compliance; and
  • Circumstances beyond your control.
Reasonable cause may be established if you show that you were not aware of specific obligations to file returns or pay taxes, depending on the facts and circumstances. Among the facts and circumstances that will be considered are:

  • Your education;
  • Whether you have previously been subject to the tax;
  • Whether you have been penalized before;
  • Whether there were recent changes in the tax forms or law that you could not reasonably be expected to know; and
  • The level of complexity of a tax or compliance issue.
You may have reasonable cause for noncompliance due to ignorance of the law if a reasonable and good faith effort was made to comply with the law or you were unaware of the requirement and could not reasonably be expected to know of the requirement.” (http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=250788,00.html)

Additional information

For further information regarding the U.S. Examining Process for FBAR, please see http://www.irs.gov/irm/part4/irm_04-026-016.html.

You may wish to keep abreast of developments through the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa website for Taxpayers Assistance at http://canada.usembassy.gov/service/taxpayer-assistance2.html.

I hope you find this update helpful. I will continue to post updates as new information becomes available.



Dear Constituents,

While I'm pleased about the US government's decision to back down from their heavy-handed approach to penalizing Canadians with US who have not yet filed with the IRS, I am still very concerned about legislation that could force Canadian financial institutions to pass on financial information to the IRS. These regulations aren't scheduled to come into force until 2014, but their implications would be serious.

I am concerned that the requirements would force banks to choose between complying and breaking Canadian privacy laws by collecting and passing on Canadians' personal information to the IRS, or suffering the huge penalties the US law would impose.

Many major financial institutions in Canada and Europe are fighting the laws because they would impose a huge burden on them and their customers, and could place them in conflict with the laws of other countries, including Canada's. Some are already dropping US customers because compliance would be too costly.

However, according to a story in the Globe and Mail, the IRS is beginning to realize that the legislation is going to cause major problems. This is partly because some banks are threatening to pull all their business out of the US instead of complying, so they can escape any penalties the US would impose. In a recent speech, the commissioner of the IRS acknowledged the problem and says he will work in a practical way to resolve the problems.

To view the article, visit: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/commentary/barrie-mckenna/why-the-irs-crackdown-puts-canadian-banks-in-a-tight-spot/article2275481/

I am hopeful that the international pressure that is being brought to bear will again force the IRS and the US government to moderate their heavy-handed position. I will continue to monitor this situation and push the federal government to continue its efforts to negotiate a better deal for Canadians.  I hope that you will continue to write the federal government and your US representatives to push them to continue to work on these issues. I am optimistic, given our success at pressuring both Canadian and US governments on the more pressing tax filing issue that we can achieve success if we continue to work together.


Denise Savoie, MP



Dear Constituents,

The IRS has released more details about its new position toward Canadians and Canadian residents caught up by US tax rules.

Please follow this link to the IRS's new position:



2 December 2011

Dear Constituents,

I have very good news to report on the US Taxation problem. This is in no small part thanks to those of you who wrote the government to voice their concerns and explain how these unfair measures were affecting you and your families.

Today in question period, the government announced that the US government will show leniency on those living in Canada who are affected. We will have to wait to see the final details, but I am hopeful that this will come to a reasonable conclusion soon. Please see the link below for a Globe and Mail article on this development:



Denise Savoie


3 November 2011

Dear Constituents,

I want to pass on to you two things. First, the response I recently received from Minister Flaherty's office on the US tax action (you can find it by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page). I must say that I am dissatisfied with the Finance Minister's response. While the Minister expresses concern and has taken some action, the government could be doing more to push the US to recognize the situation Canadian taxpayers are in.

Second, I have reproduced below a press release the BC Caucus -- the latest in our ongoing campaign to push the Canadian government into taking further action in support of Canadians.


Denise Savoie



NOVEMBER 3, 2011



OTTAWA - Members of the federal NDP B.C. Caucus are calling for stronger action by the federal government to protect Canadian citizens affected by a series of measures undertaken by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

“The Conservatives say that they know there is a problem but we have yet to see any action,” said BC Caucus Chair Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway). “There are thousands of Canadian families who can no longer wait.”

According to US law, anyone who was born in the US is required to file US tax returns even though they have worked and paid taxes in Canada and have no US income. This affects Canadian citizens holding dual citizenship as well as US residents who have permanent resident status in Canada. The US law states that failure to file will result in heavy penalties that amount to little more than a seizure of their assets.

In addition, the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requires the disclosure of all forms of Canadian bank accounts, including RESPs, RRIFs, TFSAs and chequing and savings accounts.  As of 2013, Canadian financial institutions will be required by US law to report to the IRS all accounts held by US citizens in Canada.

“The federal government needs to advise US authorities that this policy is not acceptable,” said Alex Atamanenko (BC Southern Interior). “How dare the Internal Revenue Service seize the hard-earned income and pensions of law abiding Canadian citizens? The US policy is nothing but a cash grab.”

In addition to a number of letters Atamanenko has written to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the BC Caucus recently sent a strongly worded letter to Flaherty as well as to John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs. In it, the BC Caucus calls on the federal government to immediately enter into discussions with US authorities to protect Canadian citizens.

“The bottom line is that the federal government must take a strong stance to protect the hundreds of thousands of Canadians affected by this unprecedented cash grab,” said Davies.


21 October 2011

Dear Constituents,

Today, I would like to share with you an article that contains some hope that the US government is seeing reason on their approach to taxing Canadians and Canadian residents (please click here to read the article). The article reports that the US Ambassador to Canada has said that the US will not be "unreasonable", "unsympathetic", or "irresponsible" when they implement their new tax legislation, and that the IRS is exploring ways of accomodating Canadians who could be affected.

However, while this statement is promising, we need more certainty on this issue from the US government. It is not fair for Canadians to have to take the US government at its word that the IRS won’t come after them, while there is a law on the books that says it can. A more permanent solution is needed – one where the Canadian and US governments sit down and negotiate a new policy or exemption for Canadians that is fair and provides certainty.

Unfortunately, while the Canadian government says it has raised the issue with the US, it has made no indication that it is actively negotiating to come up with a solution that will protect Canadians from the heavy penalties under the current US law (even for many of those who wouldn’t owe a cent), and establish clear and fair rules for down the road. I believe the Canadian government owes its citizens more clarity on what it will do to solve this problem.

Until we have a more complete solution that ensures the fair treatment of honest Canadian taxpayers, my New Democrat colleagues and I will continue to push the government to negotiate with the US. If you would like to find out more about the NDP's position on FATCA, please click here.

I hope you find this information helpful and gives you some hope that a solution may be around the corner. I would like to thank all those of you who have written the Canadian and US governments to express your concerns and call on them to act.


Denise Savoie


20 October 2011

Dear Constituents,

I want to draw your attention to a letter my NDP BC Caucus colleagues and I sent to Minister Flaherty, and a letter I sent to President Obama, posted at the bottom of the page. My NDP colleagues and I will continue to push the Finance Minister to take this issue seriously and to sit down with his American counterparts to hammer out a resolution that will ensure Canadians are treated fairly.


Denise Savoie


Dear Constituents,

Thanks to the many of you who contacted me to express your concern to me over the tax action by the United States government on dual Canadian and US citizens, former green-card holders and their families living in Canada.

You are not alone. There are tens of thousands of Canadians who hold US passports or green cards. Unlike in Canada, the US places tax requirements on its citizens based on citizenship, regardless of where they live, and may not recognize as tax exempt important programs Canadians benefit from, such as RRSPs and RESPs. So while it is a longstanding policy that US citizens have to file with the IRS, few are aware of this requirement—especially those who haven’t lived in the US for years or even decades.

I am also concerned about the privacy of dual citizens and residents like you because the US has passed legislation that in the future could require Canadian banks and other financial institutions to disclose personal information of account holders to the US government. The Canadian Privacy Commissioner has signalled that the law could conflict with Canadian privacy law. I encourage you to write the Privacy Commissioner to express your concern about the security of your personal information.

In support of the many constituents who have contacted me on this issue, I’ve joined with my NDP caucus colleagues Peggy Nash, Alex Atamanenko and Don Davies to press the Conservative government to broker a better deal for you and other Canadians affected by this tax policy, and to provide clarity on the protection of Canadians’ personal information. You can see the letter I sent to Minister Flaherty by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

So far, the conservative government has taken only minimal steps to address the problem, in the form of a letter to some US newspapers, which does not appear to have been printed anywhere but in Canada's Financial Post. Here is a link to the letter:


Minister Flaherty has also talked to Timothy Geithner about the matter, but it's unclear what exactly he said and how much pressure he brought to bear. What is clear is that, given the significant impact this could have on so many Canadians, the government needs to do more.

While the Canadian government has a role to play, it is important to recognize that this is a problem caused by US tax law and policy that affects you by virtue of your US citizenship, and not because of your status in relation to Canada or the Canadian government. So far, the conservative government has taken only minimal steps to address the problem, in the form of a letter to some US newspapers, which does not appear to have been printed anywhere. It's clear given the significant impact this could have on so many Canadians that the government needs to do more.

As a US citizen, you have a more direct route to the US government: your congressional representatives. I encourage you to seek out and relay your concerns to the lawmakers that have the jurisdiction to directly influence the laws and policies that are affecting you.

Unfortunately, the amnesty deadline to comply under the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative is September 9, 2011. Furthermore, the US government has signalled that it has little interest in granting exemptions to particular states like Canada.

It is important to be prepared in case the US government does not change its mind or recognize the unfairness and impracticality of its tax policy. Even if they change their policy, it could take time, and the IRS could come knocking in the meantime.

Because timelines are tight, it is very important that you take steps to protect yourself as much as possible from the potential consequences of running afoul of this new level of enforcement. If you have not yet done so, I urge you to consult your bank, financial adviser or financial institution as soon as possible to get expert advice on your best course of action.

One good place to start is by consulting the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent body within the IRS that helps taxpayers who believe they are being treated unfairly (www.irs.gov/advocate/).

You may also want to look up Americans Living Abroad (www.aca.ch), an organization that has been lobbying Washington on this issue.

Another organization, Americans in France has some helpful information on this issue (http://www.americansinfrance.net/DailyLife/Expat-Tax-Filing-Requirements.cfm).

And here are two links to two private websites which have clear summaries of the situation:



I would also like to pass on some information of my own on the tax crackdown that I hope you will find helpful in understanding how this affects Canadians like you (please see below for a link to the FATCA package).

Finally, I would encourage all of you to write Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance and John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs to express your concerns and demand action:

The Honourable James Flaherty P.C., M.P.

Minister of Finance

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6  email:  [email protected]

The Honourable John Baird P.C., M.P.

Minister of Foreign Affairs

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6  email:  [email protected]

I also encourage you to write the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to express your concerns about US legislation that could force Canadian financial institutions to provide your private financial information to the US tax authorities:

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
112 Kent Street
Place de Ville
Tower B, 3rd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1H3

Denise Savoie, MP


Fatca Package.pdf
Letter to Minister Flaherty.pdf
Letter to President Obama.pdf
BC Caucus Letter.pdf
Response from Minister Flaherty.pdf
Response from Flaherty to BC Caucus.pdf