We’re wired for kindness

At her talk to kick off BSC’s “Sit to Benefit” on Dec. 9 Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown shared new research which shows that as humans we are wired for kindness and compassion. I spoke with her further and she recommended a book called “The Compassionate Instinct” by Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley.

An excerpt from the findings:

…Recent evidence supports this point convincingly. University of Wisconsin psychologist Jack Nitschke found in an experiment that when mothers looked at pictures of their babies, they not only reported feeling more compassionate love than when they saw other babies; they also demonstrated unique activity in a region of their brains associated with the positive emotions. Nitschke’s finding suggests that this region of the brain is attuned to the first objects of our compassion—our offspring.

But this compassionate instinct isn’t limited to parents’ brains. In a different set of studies, Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen of Princeton University found that when subjects contemplated harm being done to others, a similar network of regions in their brains lit up. Our children and victims of violence—two very different subjects, yet united by the similar neurological reactions they provoke. This consistency strongly suggests that compassion isn’t simply a fickle or irrational emotion, but rather an innate human response embedded into the folds of our brains.

Read more (click here)

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