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date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores how inborn biology and life experiences both play a role in profiles of compassion. The first portion focuses on oxytocin, a neuroendocrine system that is an essential part of the biological drive to feel and express compassion for others. Both innate genetic differences and environmentally-caused epigenetic variations of the oxytocin receptor influence how brains, bodies, and social behaviors are driven by this hormone that facilitates caretaking. The second portion concentrates on moral elevation, a distinct emotional state triggered by witnessing compassion. The experience of moral elevation involves a unique pattern of neurophysiological events in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Together, this section provides illustrations of the mind-body connections underlying of the observations, sensations, and behaviors of compassion.

Keywords: awe, altruism, nature, nurture, autonomic, physiology, neuroscience, parasympathetic, vagal, prefrontal

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