New Marc Hauser Paper on Antidepressants and Moral Judgments

Serotonin selectively influences moral judgment and behavior through effects on harm aversion

General Procedure. Participants attended three sessions at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK (at least 1 wk apart) and received single doses of atomoxetine (60 mg), citalopram (30 mg), and placebo in a double-blind fully counterbalanced design.

Hauser is 3rd of 4 authors on a new paper in PNAS that administered acute doses of two antidepressants (a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor and a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, respectively) to healthy control participants, then tested them in the Trolley Problem paradigm.


Aversive emotional reactions to real or imagined social harms infuse moral judgment and motivate prosocial behavior. Here, we show that the neurotransmitter serotonin directly alters both moral judgment and behavior through increasing subjects’ aversion to personally harming others. We enhanced serotonin in healthy volunteers with citalopram (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and contrasted its effects with both a pharmacological control treatment and a placebo on tests of moral judgment and behavior. We measured the drugs’ effects on moral judgment in a set of moral ‘dilemmas’ pitting utilitarian outcomes (e.g., saving five lives) against highly aversive harmful actions (e.g., killing an innocent person). Enhancing serotonin made subjects more likely to judge harmful actions as forbidden, but only in cases where harms were emotionally salient. This harm-avoidant bias after citalopram was also evident in behavior during the ultimatum game, in which subjects decide to accept or reject fair or unfair monetary offers from another player. Rejecting unfair offers enforces a fairness norm but also harms the other player financially. Enhancing serotonin made subjects less likely to reject unfair offers. Furthermore, the prosocial effects of citalopram varied as a function of trait empathy. Individuals high in trait empathy showed stronger effects of citalopram on moral judgment and behavior than individuals low in trait empathy. Together, these findings provide unique evidence that serotonin could promote prosocial behavior by enhancing harm aversion, a prosocial sentiment that directly affects both moral judgment and moral behavior.


Molly J. Crockett, Luke Clark, Marc D. Hauser, Trevor W. Robbins (2010). Serotonin selectively influences moral judgment and behavior through effects on harm aversion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online before print September 27, 2010.

Because Pain, Suffering, Death, and Grief Are Such Happy Topics

Text analysis is probably written by a male somewhere between 26-35 years old. The writing style is academic and happy most of the time.


The analysis is based upon 25 posts that has enough English words.

Because My Father Would Have Appreciated the Humor

I’m the friendly person who’ll stick you on a treadmill and refer you for qigong.

The patient, a middle-aged man with advanced lung cancer who is clearly living with his cancer with as much dignity and vitality as could be imagined, is also the healthiest appearing advanced lung cancer patient I’ve seen in a while… It’s kind of like watching one of those Zyprexa ads where you see that attractive middle-aged woman leading this meaning-filled, poignant life full of family and work and you say to yourself ‘Gee I wish I felt like that & I don’t even have bipolar disorder.’

From Pallimed: A Hospice & Palliative Medicine Blog

Lady Gaga and Her Feminist Meat Dress: Not Very Original


“If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And I am not a piece of meat.”

from Lady Gaga In a Meat Dress

Here we see that once again, Gaga has appropriated looks, images, and statements from days of yore.


Meat the Press: Beauty pageant protester Ann Simonton’s meat dress captured national attention in 1982.


Are text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and Lady Gaga to blame for the death of sex?

Lady Gaga and the death of sex

An erotic breaker of taboos or an asexual copycat? Camille Paglia, America’s foremost cultural critic, demolishes an icon.

{i.e., The answer is yes, according to the author of 1990’s Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson}

. . .

Although she presents herself as the clarion voice of all the freaks and misfits of life, there is little evidence that she ever was one. Her upbringing was comfortable and eventually affluent, and she attended the same upscale Manhattan private school as Paris and Nicky Hilton. There is a monumental disconnect between Gaga’s melodramatic self-portrayal as a lonely, rebellious, marginalised artist and the powerful corporate apparatus that bankrolled her makeover and has steamrollered her songs into heavy rotation on radio stations everywhere.

. . .

Furthermore, despite showing acres of pallid flesh in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, Gaga isn’t sexy at all – she’s like a gangly marionette or plasticised android. How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation? Can it be that Gaga represents the exhausted end of the sexual revolution? In Gaga’s manic miming of persona after persona, over-conceptualised and claustrophobic, we may have reached the limit of an era…

. . .

Gaga’s fans are marooned in a global technocracy of fancy gadgets but emotional poverty. Borderlines have been blurred between public and private: reality TV shows multiply, cell phone conversations blare everywhere; secrets are heedlessly blabbed on Facebook and Twitter….


Alex Needham disagrees:

Camille Paglia’s attack on Lady Gaga is way off the mark 

The professor who once heralded the future of feminism now seems marooned in the past


via Ben Atlas, Gaga instead of Drama

Cymbalta (duloxetine) is a crappy antidepressant

Bad news for Lilly:

Duloxetine offers no advantages in efficacy and is less well-tolerated than SSRIs, TCAs, and even venlafaxine (Effexor), another SNRI.



Schueler Y-B, Koesters M, Wieseler B, Grouven U, Kromp M, Kerekes MF, Kreis J, Kaiser T, Becker T, Weinmann S. (2010). A systematic review of duloxetine and venlafaxine in major depression, including unpublished data. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2010.01599.x

Objective:  To determine the short-term antidepressant efficacy and tolerability of duloxetine and venlafaxine vs. each other, placebo, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and tri- and tetracyclic antidepressants (TCAs) in adults with major depression.

Method:  Meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials identified through bibliographical databases and other sources, including unpublished manufacturer reports.

Results:  Fifty-four studies including venlafaxine arms (n = 12 816), 14 including duloxetine arms (n = 4528), and two direct comparisons (n = 836) were analysed. Twenty-three studies were previously unpublished. In the meta-analysis, both duloxetine and venlafaxine showed superior efficacy (higher remission and response rates) and inferior tolerability (higher discontinuation rates due to adverse events) to placebo. Venlafaxine had superior efficacy in response rates but inferior tolerability to SSRIs (OR = 1.20, 95% CI 1.07–1.35 and 1.38, 95% CI 1.15–1.66, respectively), and no differences in efficacy and tolerability to TCAs. Duloxetine did not show any advantages over other antidepressants and was less well tolerated than SSRIs and venlafaxine (OR = 1.53, 95% CI 1.10–2.13 and OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.16–2.78, respectively).

Conclusion:  Rather than being a first-line option, venlafaxine appears to be a valid alternative in patients who do not tolerate or respond to SSRIs or TCAs. Duloxetine does not seem to be indicated as a first-line treatment.