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Altruism and HealthPerspectives from Empirical Research$
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Stephen G. Post

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195182910

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195182910.001.0001

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The Biology of Positive Emotions and Health

The Biology of Positive Emotions and Health

(p.149) 9 The Biology of Positive Emotions and Health
Altruism and Health

Andrea H. Marques

Esther M. Sternberg

Oxford University Press

This chapter reviews existing literature on the biological pathways and mechanisms involved in social interactions and positive emotions and their potential relationship to enhanced health. The first three sections of the chapter focus on the substantial body of research on the neural pathways of affiliative behaviour, maternal-infant bonding, pair bonding, parental care, and some sexual behaviour. The neurobiology of these systems has been largely worked out, and they may also play a role in the neurobiology of positive emotions and behaviours like altruism, spirituality (prayer and meditation), and exercise, where research has only just begun. The final section explains the biology of the placebo effect and hypothesizes that the powerful effects of classical conditioning (learning to associate a certain outcome with a stimulus) may be an intermediate link between positive emotions or behaviour and enhanced health.

Keywords:   biological pathways, social interactions, improved health, neural pathways, placebo effect, classical conditioning

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