Sociological Theory 20 (1):106-130 (2002)
|Abstract||Fluctuations in endogenous opioid activity in the brain, controlled under ordinary conditions by attachment, are capable of producing patterns of dependence in social behavior resembling those appearing in substance abusers. Withdrawal symptoms arising in relation to these fluctuations, short of producing dependence, ordinarily fuel everyday social interaction, and interaction then serves to modulate opioid activity within a range associated with comfort. Comfort-constraints in this sense operate in all settings of social interaction, part of an innate caregiving mechanism conserved by evolution in human behavior. In this paper we present a formal model of the neurosociological mechanism embodying these comfort constraints. Conceptualized as a hyperstructure, the mechanism grounds thinking about social interaction in recent biological discoveries about the brain, and enables sociologists to study how activity in core brain systems constrains deep patterns in social life, including the human tendencies to altruism and reciprocity. Using computational methods, we undertake simulations to study the mechanism, deriving implications about moral behavior. The theory of the hyperstructure leads to new conclusions about reciprocity and altruism, and bears upon sociological understanding of related subjects such as justice and social comparison|
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