Are you good or evil?.

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About this work


Where does our moral instinct from and why do psychopaths seem not to have it? Mel Slater shows a virtual reality test in which people are faced with having to make an unexpected moral decision. Are we born with a moral instinct? At Yale University, Paul Bloom and Karen Wynne are testing babies to see if they are born with any sense of 'good' or 'bad.' Their studies show that about 70% of the babies are drawn towards kindness and empathy. Neurologist Paul Zak is looking for a chemical basis to empathy - he conducts an experiment on footballers to see if their oxytocin levels become raised during a game when they need to bond as a team. His results lead him to refer to oxytocin as the 'moral molecule.' However, the balance between testosterone and oxytocin are also clearly highly important. US Marine officers have to learn to kill, thus going against their natural moral instincts - Leutanant Colonel Joseph Shusko describes how he helps them to condition their minds into a 'combat mindset' and we see the young Marines during training. Serial killers and psychopaths, who seem to have no empathy for others, have been the subject of Robert Hare's research for thirty years; he discusses how he tried to find traits common to all psychopaths. His next question was where these traits came from, was there a genetic factor? Were there genes that linked to violence? The MAO-A gene became known as the 'warrior gene.' Neuroscientist Jim Fallon, during research into his family history, discovered that he fitted the psychopath profile he had outlined and had the 'warrior gene.' However, because of his family environment, the gene was never activated as it might have been had he been raised in an abusive family. Further research showed that the men who were most successful in business had an extremely high level of psychopathology - corporate culture is the ideal place for a psychopath. The court case of Brad Waldroup, who committed a brutal murder, is shown in detail. Waldroup was shown to have the MAO-A gene and a history of child abuse so should he be held responsible for his own acts or not?


UK : BBC 2, 2011.

Physical description

1 DVD (50 min.) : sound, color, PAL.

Copyright note

BBC / Science Channel


Broadcast on 7 September, 2011.

Creator/production credits

Written and directed by Nicola Stockley.



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