Monday, October 23, 2006

neuroeconomic note

Polar opposites. Two-dimensional representation of the relationships between 11 goal domains. Data are derived from a questionnaire about the importance of 57 different goals given to a sample of 1854 undergraduates from 15 different countries. Note the diametrically opposite placement of financial success and community. [Reprinted from F. M. E. Grouzet et al., J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 89, 800 (2005) in Science, Nov. 17, 2006.]

Dec. 3, 5, and 9

The text above is the caption from the Science article indicated. One might also note the diametrically opposite placement of physical health and conformity. Valuing financial success distances a person from valuing community, and valuing conformity distances a person from valuing physical health, among other interesting aspects of that chart.

More interesting to me, though, is the x/y axis. I won't doubt that the researchers appropriately associate each of their 57 values with a goal domain (I'm accepting the referee processes of the well-known journal). A respondent in the research can gauge degrees of intrinsic/extrinsic or somatic/mental value because the poles of the x/y axis are intuitively cogent: Sense of embodiment, higher self; extraversion, introversion.

In fact (by my lights, but strongly corroborated by the above-indicated research), we distinguish inner self from outer self or self-seeing ("I") from self-as-seen ("me")—which William James distinguished early last century. This and the kind of x/y-axis above have also been keynotes of major research on child development (Self-understanding in childhood and adolescence, Wm. Damon & D. Hart, Cambridge U.P., 1988).

Indeed, the individuated historicity of this difference relates to a dyadity in identity, which I've long distinguished as self-identity and personal identity. Idiomatic English often registers the same difference: personality, you have; selfness, you are. Obviously, what's intrinsic deeply matters (self), and what's extrinsic may largely show (image, "face").

Disintegrated identity tends to be a depersonalization order, like teen alienation. Taken to chronic extreme, there is depersonalization disorder, as defined by The Diagnostic Standards Manual (Is that DSM-IV-R these days? DSM-V is in development.).

Creatively mature minds—called the "plural psyche" (Jungian psychology) or "protean psyche" (Robert J. Lifton)—involve a strong self-identity stably integrated with a diversity of personas or personal identities (think of a writer's capability for extended characterization mapped into dramatically-understood real life), which is a "thick" sense of the "thin" diversity of roles we normally integrate: friend, lover/spouse, parent/teacher, employee, etc.

I conjecture that high self (i.e., "self-transcendence") with extreme extrinsicness tends toward exemplarity. High self with extreme intrinsicness tends toward originality? Extreme extrinsicness with high physicality tends toward material productivism? And extreme intrinsicness with high physicality seems to be very regressive, I don't know.

But it makes sense that a distinction between interpersonal and intersubjective interaction is useful (and real): Civility is very interpersonal. Solidarity is less merely interpersonal by being more intersubjective (more emotionally bonded). Kindredness is somewhat interpersonal, but usually very intersubjective. And intimacy is intensely intersubjective (such that interpersonalness feels like an act, like lovers back in the office). We should need to appreciate such a continuum—civility, solidarity, kindredness, intimacy—as a natural feature of our humanity because the psyche has an intrinsic/extrinsic compass (which, I would argue, arises from primal self discovery, e.g., in infant recognizing, in effect, that the hand moving there is "mine" because "I" moved it; or the face there is not me, but is familiar, whereas that other face is strange).

In any case, the research indicated above (with screen-back image of coins arranged in the shape of a brain) relates to a continuum between mental valuation and social valuation that is transcultural. The appeal of neuroeconomics arises in part from increasing evidence that valuation expresses developmental, if not evolutionary, investments (but neuroeconomics also arises from research indicating that dynamics of emergence apply to neuroscience analogously with economics). Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman, a leading researcher in cognitive neuroscience, has for decades advocated a theory of "neural darwinism" that depends on dynamics of emergent valuation and primal cognitive valuation that has withstood the test of time, evidently. Neural valuation figures into the ontogeny of value in perceptual preference, temperament, and formation of conscious preferences, and this dimension of neural e-valuing shadows mental development (conative, affective, and cognitive) throughout life.

Indeed, this dimensionality profoundly supports new senses of evolutionary ethics that have emerged from studies of natural sociality and due diligence in other species. This kind of inquiry suggests new prospects for ethical intuitionism (now developmentally-based, rather than essentialist) and ethical naturalism (based in research about healthy human development and flourishing). There is even a subspecies of bioethics called "neuroethics" (clinical bioethics applied to neuroscientific research) which faces transhumanist prospects emergent from neurological modeling and neurogenetics.