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The New York Academy of Sciences runs a nice little website. Here, they offer a series of audio files with interviews and presentations which are available for download as podcasts. Recent editions I have enjoyed include a talk by Michael Schermer on his new book (on evolutionary approaches to economics) and a lecture by anthropologist Randall White on paleolithic body ornamentation.

Of the many, many interesting items – including podcasts with Steven Pinker and Craig Ventner, or Vittorio Gallese on mirror neurons and art – I want to highlight a recent edition which contains a highly interesting short presentation by neurophysiologist Donald Pfaff on neurobiological underpinnings of altruistic behavior. Pfaff has recently published a slim volume on this topic, The Neuroscience of Fair Play, which is notable for the fact that it deals mostly with very basic physiological processes underpinning motivational behavior – in contrast to most writings on moral neuroscience that (for good reasons) tend to focus on the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the integration of emotion and cognition in moral behavior.

I plan to review Pfaff’s book later this spring, and also to write more on moral neuroscience.


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