Paul J. Zak discovered neurologic mechanisms that enable cooperation and trust, and these mechanisms have been used by the World Bank to stimulate prosperity in developing countries and by businesses to enhance economic performance. Zak is a professor of economic sciences, psychology, and management in Claremont Graduate University’s Division of Politics & Economics. He is also chair of the Department of Economic Sciences.
Zak was one of the first scientists to integrate neuroscience and economics into a new discipline: neuroeconomics. His research has identified the brain processes that support such virtuous behaviors as trustworthiness, generosity, and sacrifice, as well as those whose absence leads to evil, vice, and conflict. He uses these results to increase flourishing by individuals, organizations, and societies.
After receiving his BA in Mathematics and Economics from San Diego State University, Zak completed his doctorate in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Zak has taught at Caltech, Arizona State University, UC Riverside, and USC Law. At CGU, Zak directs the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies in addition to his teaching roles.
Zak’s newest book, Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High Performance Companies (January 2017), applies neuroscience to organizational culture to demonstrate that high trust improves the triple bottom line and it explores ways in which managers can create and sustain a culture of trust. His book The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity was published in 2012 by Dutton, a member of the Penguin Group. The book received much attention for its approach to understanding such human qualities as empathy, happiness, and the kindness of strangers.
Zak delivered a TED Talk titled “Trust, Morality—and Oxytocin?” in 2011 that has been viewed more than 1.4 million times. His work has made substantial impact on our understanding interpersonal trust, economic growth, oxytocin, empathy, and virtuous behaviors. His works have been cited over 10,000 times.
Zak, P.J. The Neuroscience of Trust. Harvard Business Review. January 2017.
Alexander, V., Tripp, S., Zak, P.J. (2015). Preliminary Evidence for the Neurophysiologic Effects of Online Coupons: Changes in Oxytocin, Stress, and Mood. Psychology and Marketing. 32(9): 977–86.
Crosby, L.A., Zak, P.J. (2015). The Neuroscience of Brand Trust. Marketing Management. May, 22–23.
Brosnan, S.F., Talbot, C.F., Essler, J.L., Leverett, K., Flemming, T., Dougall, P., Heyler, C., Zak, P.J. (2015). Oxytocin Reduces Food Sharing in Capuchin Monkeys by Modulating Social Distance. Behaviour. 152 (7–8), 941–61.
Barraza, J.A., Alexander, V., Beavin, L.E. Terris, E.T., Zak, P.J. (2015). The Heart of the Story: Peripheral Physiology During Narrative Exposure Predicts Charitable Giving. Biological Psychology. 105, 138–43.
Zak, P.J. (2015). Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling. Harvard Business Review. 28-Oct.
Zak, P. J. (2008). The Neurobiology of Trust. Scientific American. June: 88–95.
Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Zak, P. J., Fischbacher, U. & Fehr, E. (2005). Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature. 435(2): 673–76.
Zak, P. J., & Knack, S. (2001). Trust and Growth. The Economic Journal. 111: 295–321.
The Behavioral Neuroscience of Decision Making
Designing High-Performance Organizations Using Neuroscience