Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: If you've been wondering if the historic nuclear negotiations between the US and Iran will succeed or fail, Nicholas Wright And Karim Sadjadpour have a very interesting read in the Atlantic with a neurological explanation of the Iranian government's willingness to subject its population to the most onerous sanctions regime in contemporary history and a description of the neural mechanisms behind conciliatory gestures that might render negotiations more effective. Wright and Sadjadpour begin with the basic neurological principle, demonstrated by more than three decades of lab experiments, that humans are prepared to reject unfairness even at substantial cost. In a classic experiment known as the ultimatum game, one individual gets an amount of money (e.g. $10) and proposes a split with a second player (e.g. $9 for herself, $1 for the second person) which the second player can either accept or reject. Despite receiving an offer of free money, the second player rejects offers involving less than 25 percent of the money around half the time. In essence, unfairness has a negative value that outweighs the positive value of the money they would otherwise receive. "The motivation to reject unfairness, and the humiliation that results from it, can become deeply embedded in national narratives and decision-making. In 1951, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh rejected years of inequitable profit-sharing agreements with the British-run Anglo Iranian Oil Company by nationalizing Iran’s oil industry, even at the cost of British reprisals," write Wright and Sadjadpour. "Six decades later, this impulse to reject perceived unfairness has seemingly motivated Iran’s nuclear ambitions far more than an actual need for an indigenous nuclear energy program." In just the last few years, Iran has suffered well over $100 billion in lost foreign investment and oil revenue to defend a nuclear program that can only meet 2 percent of the country’s energy needs. Former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian concedes that the global opprobrium Iran has endured for its nuclear program defies economic logic. “If you are talking about nuclear, I will tell you no, [the pressure] isn’t worth it, definitely,” says Mousavian. “But the nuclear issue today for Iranians is not nuclear (PDF)—it's defending their integrity, independent identity against the pressure of the rest.” Why, Tehran asks, should the six global powers—five of whom collectively possess several thousand nuclear weapons—dictate terms to Iran? Why are countries like India and Pakistan—non-signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that clandestinely acquired nuclear weapons—accepted members of the international community, while Iran (an NPT signatory) is considered an international pariah? "We may not agree with these Iranian sentiments," conclude Wright and Sadjadpour, "but neuroscience tells us that rejecting perceived unfairness, even at substantial cost, is a powerful motivation unto itself (PDF)."
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