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  1. Oct 2015
    1. self esteem sort of suggests, that to be, to consider yourself valuablein the world, you have to be better than average. That’s great except that ifeverybody’s aspiring for that, and everybody is better than average we’re in a placeof mathematical implausibility

      I suppose we'll see if the key idea here is to focus on a few traits rather than the average of all traits.

    2. that self-harshness, guilt, and self-flagellation were the main ways to achieve happiness,which you actually didn’t get to arrive at until the afterlife.
    1. We all have a limited capacity for decision-making in any given day. Eventually this capacity fades, and with it the quality of the decisions we make, and our self-discipline in general. In other words, making a lot of decisions, even small ones, tires us out. Knowing this makes me feel better about restricting my choices. And I no longer think of myself as settling when I make a decision without exploring all the options. I’m practicing satisficing, and I’m happier than I would be in the long run if I were to maximize. I also have more energy and clarity when big decision-making moments come along.
    2. Dacher just introduced the distinction between "maximizers" and "satisficers" made by Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College. Maximizers try to squeeze the greatest amount of benefit and pleasure out of every choice or opportunity, while satisficers find contentment with choices as long as they pass a basic threshold of acceptability.
    3. Schwartz and his colleagues have found that maximizers score lower on scales of happiness, optimism, self-esteem, and life satisfaction, and score higher on measures of depression, perfectionism, and regret. This is especially problematic for people living in free, consumerist societies with an ever-growing number of choices before them.
    4. And we know from studies that happierpeople tend to define their happiness on their own terms and not comparethemselves to others and think about how they’re always falling short.
    5. when parents and teachers praise their kids for being perfect,right the kids feel alienated and anxious. By contrast, when you praise kids for justtrying hard and putting effort into some things they feel motivated.
    6. Just having positive experiences is not enough to promote last well-being. If a person feels grateful for a few seconds, that’s nice. That’s better than feeling resentful or bitter for a few seconds. But in order to really suck that experience into the brain, we need to stay with those experiences for a longer duration of time—we need to take steps, consciously, to keep that spotlight of attention on the positive. So, how do we actually do this? These are the three steps I recommend for taking in the good. I should note that I did not invent these steps. They are embedded in many good therapies and life practices. But I’ve tried to tease them apart and embed them in an evolutionary understanding of how the brain works. 1. Let a good fact become a good experience. Often we go through life and some good thing happens—a little thing, like we checked off an item on our To Do list, we survived another day at work, the flowers are blooming, and so forth. Hey, this is an opportunity to feel good. Don’t leave money lying on the table: Recognize that this is an opportunity to let yourself truly feel good. 2. Really savor this positive experience. Practice what any school teacher knows: If you want to help people learn something, make it as intense as possible—in this case, as felt in the body as possible—for as long as possible. 3. Finally, as you sink into this experience, sense your intent that this experience is sinking into you. Sometimes people do this through visualization, like by perceiving a golden light coming into themselves or a soothing balm inside themselves. You might imagine a jewel going into the treasure chest in your heart—or just know that this experience is sinking into you, becoming a resource you can take with you wherever you go.
    7. The problem, of course, is that most people don’t have very good control over their attention. Part of this is due to human nature, shaped by evolution: Our forbearers who just focused on the reflection of sunlight in the water—they got chomped by predators. But those who were constantly vigilant—they lived. And today we are constantly bombarded with stimuli that the brain has not evolved to handle. So gaining more control over attention one way or another is really crucial, whether it’s through the practice of mindfulness, for instance, or through gratitude practices, where we count our blessings.
    8. Another region is the frontal regions of the prefrontal cortex—areas involved in controlling attention. Again, this should be no surprise: They’re focusing their attention in their meditation, so they’re getting more control over it, and they’re strengthening its neural basis.
    9. You can use the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the better. This is known as “self-directed neuroplasticity.” Neuroplasticity refers to the malleable nature of the brain, and it’s constant, ongoing. Self-directed neuroplasticity means doing it with clarity and skillfulness and intention. The key to it is a controlled use of attention. Attention is like a spotlight, to be sure, shining on things within our awareness. But it’s also like vacuum cleaner, sucking whatever it rests upon into the brain, for better or worse.
    10. research has also shown that it’s possible to slow the loss of our brain cells. Normally, we lose about 10,000 brain cells a day. That may sound horrible, but we were born with 1.1 trillion. We also have several thousand born each day, mainly in the hippocampus, in what’s called neurogenesis. So losing 10,000 a day isn’t that big a deal, but the net bottom line is that a typical 80 year old will have lost about 4 percent of his or her brain mass—it’s called “cortical thinning with aging.” It’s a normal process. But in one study, researchers compared meditators and non-meditators. In the graph to the left, the meditators are the blue circles and the non-meditators are the red squares, comparing people of the same age. The non-meditators experienced normal cortical thinning in those two brain regions I mentioned above, along with a third, the somatosensory cortex. However, the people who routinely meditated and “worked” their brain did not experience cortical thinning in those regions.
    11. People who maintain some kind of regular meditative practice actually have measurably thicker brains in certain key regions. One of those regions is the insula, which is involved in what’s called “interoception”—tuning into the state of your body, as well as your deep feelings. This should be no surprise: A lot of what they’re doing is practicing mindfulness of breathing, staying really present with what’s going on inside themselves; no wonder they’re using, and therefore building, the insula.
    12. busy regions of the brain start stitching new connections with each other. Existing synapses—the connections between neurons that are very busy—get stronger, they get more sensitive, they start building out more receptors. New synapses form as well.
    13. more activation in the left prefrontal cortex is associated with more positive emotions. So as there is greater activation in the left, front portion of your brain relative to the right, there is also greater well-being. That’s probably in large part because the left prefrontal cortex is a major part of the brain for controlling negative emotion. So if you put the breaks on the negative, you get more of the positive. On the other hand, people who routinely experience chronic stress—particularly acute, even traumatic stress—release the hormone cortisol, which literally eats away, almost like an acid bath, at the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that’s very engaged in visual-spatial memory as well as memory for context and setting. For example, adults who have had that history of stress and have lost up to 25 percent of the volume of this critically important part of the brain are less able to form new memories.
    14. And better understanding them means we can skillfully stimulate the neural substrates of those states—which, in turn, means we can strengthen them. Because as the famous saying by the Canadian scientist Donald Hebb goes, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
    1. Freedman also points out how Siddhartha described Hesse's interior dialectic: "All of the contrasting poles of his life were sharply etched: the restless departures and the search for stillness at home; the diversity of experience and the harmony of a unifying spirit; the security of religious dogma and the anxiety of freedom."[8]

      This reminds me of a quote, which I can't currently attribute, that basically says you can have everything in life, but not everything at once. Somewhat obvious, but I think if a person isn't mindful of this idea and is afraid to get out of his comfortable zone, or is held to a set of rigid beliefs, a diverse range of experiences are highly unlikely.

    1. Mindfulness interrupts the conditioned responses that prevent us from exploring new avenues of thought, choking our creative potential. Each time we stand up against a habit—whether it’s checking our smartphone during a conversation or reacting defensively to a coworker’s passing remark— we weaken the grip of our conditioning. We lay down new tracks in the brain  and fashion new synaptic connections.
    2. No action, reaction, interaction, or relationship ever feels uninteresting or unworkable if a curious mind is brought to bear on it. You can actually transform that feeling of,  “Oh man, here comes John, my supervisor—I bet he wants me to change my work, again” into “Here comes John again. How can I see and hear him, without judgment, as though we were interacting for the very first time—just dealing with what comes up in the moment?”
    3. Think even smaller. Imagine something as routine as the way you hoist the phone to your ear when it rings. By really examining this action—seemingly so inconsequential, so unworthy of examination—you feel like it’s something you’re doing for the very first time. You may detect anxiety traveling down your arm and tension as you pick up the phone. Experiencing everyday actions up close in this way is not about being self-conscious. It’s about bringing choice, attention, and awareness back into things that you’ve allowed to become automatic. By opening up to the tiniest habit, you make it possible to crack open the larger habits, which seem more resistant to change. You can look at every action and interaction freshly.
    4. also in situations that may seem insignificant, but which could become more significant if left unexamined. Let’s say you’ve taken  the attitude that the tasks  assigned to you are unimportant or undervalued. Ask yourself if you feel that way because it is true. Or do you feel that way because you’re so used to telling yourself it’s true that you can’t think of it in any other way?
    5. Becoming aware of the impact the slight has had on you is the first step. Separate yourself from yourself just enough to allow you to examine, free from rote reactions, how your body, emotions, and thoughts are combining to gear up for a response.
    6. Each of us has our own pet scenarios that chafe against our expectations. When they pop up, they threaten to stir up jealousy, anger, defensiveness, mindless striving, and a stew of other possibilities. We may end up saying or doing something hurtful, something we’ll regret later and may have to apologize for. We leapt before we looked. Conversely, when we stop to examine how we typically respond to situations, we create space for more creative and flexible responses. Ultimately, as we build the habit of mindfully examining our responses in the moment, mindful awareness becomes our new default mode.
    7. It can be difficult enough to be open-minded toward others, but it is even more difficult to be open-minded toward oneself. It takes real training. To discover the ways of perceiving you’re apt to blindly apply, experiment with keeping yourself curious, attentive, and receptive. Whenever you detect yourself falling into an old, familiar pattern, stop and examine what is actually going on. Notice the physical sensations in your body; notice the emotions that have bloomed; notice what stories your mind is generating that make your body tense and inflame your emotions. But it’s important not to disparage yourself for falling into an old and unhelpful pattern. Recognize the potentially explosive negative charge generated by your body, thoughts, and emotions. Accept that it has arisen, then make the decision to be in control of it instead of being controlled by it.
    8. The positive response to the program was almost immediate. “In one classroom, the children went from having the most behavioral problems in the school—as measured by number of visits to the principal’s office—to having zero behavioral problems, after only two to three weeks of instruction,” says Schonert-Reichl.

      Mindfulness training in schools seems to have some major benefits.

    1. If you find yourself overwhelmed by anger against yourself or others, sitting meditation sounds like the one for you. If you frequently feel tired or sick, yoga is worth a try. While the body scan did not seem to yield as many benefits as the other two practices, that’s an area that needs further investigation. For example, it’s possible that body scan paired with sitting meditation or yoga could be helpful.

      Researchers found some benefits across all three groups. In all three groups participants reported reduced rumination, as well as greater self-compassion and well-being. These results echo decades of research showing that mindfulness practices improve physical and mental health.

    2. The study, published last month in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, suggests that meditating for just 30 minutes a day for eight weeks can increase the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, and empathy.

      One of those regions was the hippocampus, which prior research has found to be involved in learning, memory, and the regulation of our emotions. The gray matter of the hippocampus is often reduced in people who suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

      The researchers also found denser gray matter in the temporoparietal junction and the posterior cingulated cortex of the meditators’ brains—regions involved in empathy and taking the perspective of someone else—and in the cerebellum, which has been linked to emotion regulation.

    3. Participants for the gene study came into the lab and meditated for eight hours. Blood samples were taken before and after those hours of practice and then Davidson and crew looked for gene-expression changes over the course of that time in the lab. Results from this meditator group were compared to a control group that was not familiar with meditation and that came into the laboratory for “a day of leisure.” That group watched quiet videos, read, and took gentle walks. The findings? The control-group participants didn’t show the same kind of gene-expression changes, Davidson says. It’s the first study that shows “we can actually see gene-expression changes within a very short period of time.”
    4. “One of the important foci in our research is looking at inflammation, which has been implicated in many chronic illnesses,” Davidson says. “And there’s now increasing evidence to suggest that at a very basic biological level, certain kinds of meditation practices seem to modulate inflammatory systems. They down-regulate particular molecules—we call these proinflammatory cytokines—which are directly implicated in inflammation.”
    5. Our conversation veers toward how teaching mindfulness can sometimes be mistaken as training people to simply improve their own performance—through better concentration, through better training of attention and awareness. Davidson, interjects: “What we do always needs to be in the service of others. That’s the difference.”
    6. Davidson says. “It has yet to be studied in the specific area of meditation practice, but we can ask the question, for example, is it better to sit for 30 minutes a day, or is it better to have 10 three-minute periods of practice that are sprinkled throughout the day? We don’t know the answer to that.”
    7. Davidson shocked his professors by taking off for India to explore meditation practice and Buddhist teachings. After three months there and in Sri Lanka, he came back convinced he would do meditation research. He was quickly disabused of this notion by his professors, who let him know that if he had any hope of a career in science, he’d better stow the meditation and follow a more conventional path of research. He became a closet meditator and an affective neuroscientist—a deep student of the emotions.

      This seems to be the theme for scientific pioneers in recent decades.

    8. also did a briefmeditation intervention and in their subjects they were able to show that themeditation program resulted ina greater activation in reward circuitryso more contentment and pleasure and in this caseanticipatory pleasure because they were showing this activationin response to opportunities, to help opportunitiesto be of assistance.
    9. basically what they've been able to showis that certain regions of the brain seem to getmore densely interconnected and more responsiveafter meditation and those ones seem to be areas of the brain that areinvolved inwhat we call interoceptive awareness, which is also the same area that’s implicated in empathy so so we get stronger at responses in our in our insula in response to information from the outside world after having participated in a meditation programathis should make us more empathetic, and thisindeed that’s what we observed.
    10. Neuroplasticity is the idea that our brains change throughoutlifeas a result of day-to-day experiences and activities.
    11. And what they found was that the individuals who participated in the meditation programhad longer telomeres than the individuals who were in the control group after a three-monthexperience. This was first finding in that vein. Elissa Epel and her colleague did anotherresearch project where they looked at a mindfulness-based program for people with eating disorders andshowed that people who did the mindfulness had a 39% increase in telomerase activitywhich corresponds to lengthened telomeres and that this telomerase activity actuallypredicted benefits in other aspects of their treatment program having to do with the people’seating habits. So there’s this interesting effect that is being reiterated that mindfulnessactually seems to make people age more gracefully.
    1. Awareness: Self-awareness points to the ability to attain insight into one's own attitudes, motives, reactions, strengths and vulnerabilities.
    2. Attention: According to psychologist and philosopher William James, attention "is the taking possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what may seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thoughts…It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others." Many compare attention to a spotlight, which makes certain information from the inside or outside world more available to conscious awareness, while filtering out less useful information. Attention is limited, in that it can only hold a finite quantity of information in mind for a limited period of time, and selective, in that it orients to information that is deemed important in a given moment.
    3. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the mainstream in recent years largely through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. The MBSR program usually has students meet for two to three hours per week for eight weeks, practicing at home between classes. They learn practices such as the "body scan," in which they focus their attention along each part of the body, trying to be aware and accepting of whatever they sense in these body parts, and the "raisin meditation," where they slowly use all of their senses, one after another, to observe a raisin in great detail, from the way it feels in their hand to the way its taste bursts on the tongue.
    4. Meditation: Though mindfulness and meditation are closely related, they are not synonymous. As Jon Kabat-Zinn describes in his video, one can practice mindfulness while not doing a formal meditation practice, and there are many different kinds of meditation that go beyond mindfulness meditation. The term "meditation" refers to a wide range of practices that simply involve training the mind to achieve a particular state of consciousness, especially for relaxation. That said, mindfulness meditation, based on a technique adapted from Buddhist Vipassana meditation, is a basic and commonly practiced form of meditation.
    5. Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.
    6. Now notice again that ‘open,kind, and discerning’suggest that we’re not rigidly forcing our minds to pay attention all the time to somethingthat we intend to pay attention to, but rather that we’re present in the moment and notforcing anything, including forcing ourselves not to mind-wander.
    7. Now notice again that ‘open,kind, and discerning’suggest that we’re not rigidly forcing our minds to pay attention all the time to somethingthat we intend to pay attention to, but rather that we’re present in the moment and notforcing anything, including forcing ourselves not to mind-wander.
    1. during periods of mind-wandering, regions of the brain’s default mode network were activated. Then when participants became aware of this mind-wandering, brain regions related to the detection of salient or relevant events came online. After that, areas of the executive brain network took over, re-directing and maintaining attention on the chosen object. And all of this occurred within 12 seconds around those button presses.

      Link

      I'd be interested to see how sleep deprivation relates to this; I find my mind wanders easily when I haven't had enough sleep. Yet another reason to get more sleep to be happy and healthy.

    2. there is a strong relationship between mind-wandering now and being unhappy a short time later, consistent with the idea that mind-wandering is causing people to be unhappy. In contrast, there’s no relationship between being unhappy now and mind-wandering a short time later. Mind-wandering precedes unhappiness but unhappiness does not precede mind-wandering. In other words, mind-wandering seems likely to be a cause, and not merely a consequence, of unhappiness.
    3. A particularly generative field is contemplative neuroscience, which involves collaborations between scientists and expert authorities in the traditions that have informed the concept of mindfulness.
    4. For example, when your mind wandered off in that meeting, it might help to know you’re slipping into default mode—and you can deliberately bring yourself back to the moment. That’s an ability that can improve with training.
    5. One brain area stood out in this analysis: the medial prefrontal cortex, a part of the default mode network that is particularly related to self-focused thoughts, which make up a good portion of mind-wandering content. It turns out that experienced meditators deactivated this region more quickly after identifying mind-wandering than people who hadn’t meditated as much
    6. more experienced meditators have increased connectivity between default mode and attention brain regions, and less default mode activity while meditating.
    7. a wandering mind isn’t all bad. Not only can we leverage it to build focus using FA meditation, but the capacity to project our mental stream out of the present and imagine scenarios that aren’t actually happening is hugely evolutionarily valuable, which may explain why it’s so prominent in our mental lives. These processes allow for creativity, planning, imagination, memory—capacities that are central not only to our survival, but also to the very essence of being human. The key, I believe, is learning to become aware of these mental tendencies and to use them purposefully, rather than letting them take over. Meditation can help with that.
    8. the Killingsworth and Gilbert study I mentioned earlier found that when people’s minds were wandering, they tended to be less happy, presumably because our thoughts often tend towards negative rumination or stress. That’s why mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly important treatment of mental health difficulties like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even sexual dysfunction.
    9. What are other practical implications of this knowledge? Recent behavioral research shows that practicing meditation trains various aspects of attention. Studies show that meditation training not only improves working memory and fluid intelligence, but even standardized test scores. 
    10. Ironically, mind-wandering itself can help strengthen our ability to focus, if leveraged properly. This can be achieved using an age-old skill: meditation
    11. It may seem surprising, but mind-wandering is actually a central element of focused attention (FA) meditation. In this foundational style of meditation, the practitioner is instructed to keep her attention on a single object, often the physical sensations of breathing. 
    12. a recent study by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert sampled over 2,000 adults during their day-to-day activities and found that 47 percent of the time, their minds were not focused on what they were currently doing. Even more striking, when people’s minds were wandering, they reported being less happy.
    13. mindfulness is about dedicating our awareness to the present moment, in a kind, non-judging manner
    1. The easiest way—by far—to demonstrate interest in others is to ask questions. The most socially successful people ask not just factual questions (“What do you do for work?”) but questions that are a little more personal (“How do you like what you do?”). These two types of questions, used in conjunction, accelerate feelings of connectedness.
    2. Introverts may have a hard time feeling as socially connected as extroverts. But the most extroverted person in the room may not be the most socially connected. They may receive attention, but if an extrovert does not learn a bit about those around them—by quietly listening to them—those other people will hardly feel closer to them. Listening to others makes people want to be around you, and wanting to be around each other is the essence of feeling connected.
    1. By contrast, the atom of betrayal is not just turning away—not just turning away from my wife’s sadness in that moment—but doing what Caryl Rusbult called a “CL-ALT,” which stands for “comparison level for alternatives.” What that means is I not only turn away from her sadness, but I think to myself, “I can do better. Who needs this crap? I’m always dealing with her negativity. I can do better.” Once you start thinking that you can do better, then you begin a cascade of not committing to the relationship; of trashing your partner instead of cherishing your partner; of building resentment rather than gratitude; of lowering your investment in the relationship; of not sacrificing for the relationship; and of escalating conflicts.
    2. My graduate student Dan Yoshimoto has discovered that the basis for building trust is really the idea of attunement. He has broken this down with the acronym ATTUNE, which stands for: Awareness of your partner’s emotion; Turning toward the emotion; Tolerance of two different viewpoints; trying to Understand your partner; Non-defensive responses to your partner; and responding with Empathy.
    3. In my research, we filmed an interaction between a couple and had each partner turn a rating dial as they watched their tape afterward. On this graph (at left), you can see how one couple rated their interaction. The blue dots represent the wife’s ratings over 15 minutes of conversation; the red dots represent the husband’s ratings. When you add them together, these ratings are a constant, which means that in this interaction, her gain is his loss and his gain is her loss. This is what’s called in game theory a “zero-sum game.” You’ve probably all heard of the concept. It’s the idea that in an interaction, there’s a winner and a loser. And by looking at ratings like this, I came to define a “betrayal metric”: It’s the extent to which an interaction is a zero-sum game, where your partner’s gain is your loss. On the other hand, by trust we really mean, mathematically, that our partner’s behavior is acting to increase our rating dial. Even though we’re disagreeing, my wife is thinking about my welfare, my best interests. When we scientifically tested these so-called trust and betrayal metrics, we found that a high trust metric is correlated with very positive outcomes, such as greater stability in the relationship. In a 20-year longitudinal study of couples in the San Francisco Bay Area that I recently completed with UC Berkeley psychologist Bob Levenson, we found that about 11 percent of couples had a zero-sum game pattern, like in that graph. Every six years, we would re-contact all of the couples in the study, and they would come back to Bob’s lab at Berkeley. Yet we noticed that many of the zero-sum couples weren’t coming back. I thought maybe they dropped out because they found the whole thing so unpleasant. Well, it turns out that they didn’t drop out. They died.
    4. This research shows there are low- and high-trust regions of the United States. Nevada is a very low-trust region. (Nobody seems to be very surprised by that.) Minnesota is a very high-trust region. The Deep South is a very low-trust region. We see similar disparities internationally. In Brazil, two percent of people say they trust other people. In Norway, 65 percent say they trust other people. So what are the characteristics of low-trust regions? Few people vote, parents and schools are less active. There’s less philanthropy in low-trust regions, greater crime of all kinds, lower longevity, worse health, lower academic achievement in schools.
    5. To some people, these findings about oxytocin might raise another concern: that trust is not subject to rational control—that it’s “all hormones.” This seems to stand in stark contrast to the traditional idea of trust being the outcome of a cognitive, rational process. In my view, trust is both, just like other human social behaviors. We cannot deny that many of our decisions are governed by cognitive processes; in the case of trust, these processes take into account the available information about the trustee’s motivation, the likelihood of a repeated interaction, and so on.
    6. Interestingly, the investors’ expectations about the back-transfer from the trustee did not differ between the oxytocin and placebo recipients. Oxytocin increased the participants’ willingness to trust others, but it did not make them more optimistic about another person’s trustworthiness.

      The Trust Game; however, there was no difference in groups when the trustee was a computer, showing oxytocin affects social connections but not risk-behavior itself.

    7. there is a simple hypothesis about what steers the human brain to trust another human: a hormone called oxytocin.
    8. Conventional economic theory maintains that people will always behave in a purely self-interested manner. According to this worldview, it makes no sense to trust, whether in a trust game or in real life, as any trust will be exploited. The trustee will always keep her entire windfall for herself, so the investor would be better off not transferring any money in the first place. And yet when researchers like Joyce Berg and others have had people play the trust game with real monetary stakes, they have repeatedly found that the average investor will transfer half of her initial endowment and receive similar amounts in return. Through the trust game, researchers have also discovered a number of factors that seem to drive levels of trust. Familiarity breeds trust—players tend to trust each other more with each new game. So does introducing punishments for untrustworthy behavior, or even just reminding players of their obligations to each other.
    1. My colleagues and I have developed a nine-step method for forgiving almost any conceivable hurt. We have tested this method through a series of studies with people who had been lied to, cheated, abandoned, beaten, abused, or had their children murdered. They ranged from neglected spouses to the parents of terrorist victims in Northern Ireland.

      Frederic Luskin and the Stanford Forgiveness Projects

    2. To become a forgiving person, we have to practice forgiving smaller grievances. Then, when a bigger insult comes, we are ready, willing, and able to deal with it. Alternatively, like Delores, once we learn to forgive a major grievance, we can understand the value of limiting the power that pain and anger hold over us the next time we are hurt.

      The first statement may be a specialization of Barbara Fredrickson's broaden-and-build theory.

    3. Delores practiced and saw the value of the old adage that a life well lived is the best revenge.
    4. As the forgiveness training progressed, Delores began to look at her suffering and ask herself what “unenforceable rule” she was trying to enforce. I reminded her that she would not be so upset unless she was trying to change something that was impossible for her to change.

      From Epictetus.

    5. give the next moment a chance. That’s the acceptance, “I’m willing to give the nextmoment achance. I don‘t have to punish you because of what somebody else did.” And it all is,anotherway of putting this, is can I use resilience enough to be able to handle “no” whenit comes byway?
    6. the simple definition that I work with now is that forgiveness is the ability to makepeacewith the word “no.”
    7. Are some offenses so heinous that they ought never to be forgiven? Are there times when justice should trump forgiveness? Justice and forgiveness do clash at times. I do not advocate forgiving under all circumstances (unless a person’s religion dictates it). But I know that a sincere apology, restitution, or a punishment imposed by the proper authorities can often make it easier for victims to grant forgiveness. The big transgressions are not necessarily “unforgivable” because they are big. Instead, big transgressions are often the ones that, if they are ever to be surmounted, must be forgiven.
    8. It’s important to stress again that forgiveness usually takes time. In fact, in a meta-analysis of all research that measured the impact of forgiveness interventions, Nathaniel Wade and I found that a factor as simple as the amount of time someone spent trying to forgive was highly related to the actual degree of forgiveness experienced.
    9. British researchers Peter Woodruff and Tom Farrow are doing some of this important work. Their research suggests that the areas in the brain associated with forgiveness are often deep in the emotional centers, in the region known as the limbic system, rather than in the areas of the cortex usually associated with reasoned judgments. In one study, they asked people to judge the fairness of a transgression and then consider whether to forgive it or empathize with the transgressor. Ten individuals evaluated several social scenarios while the researchers recorded images of their brain activity. Whether people empathized or forgave, similar areas in the emotion centers of the brain lit up. When those same people thought about the fairness of the same transgression, though, the emotion centers stopped being as active. This could be a clue for interventionists. To help people forgive, help them steer clear of dwelling on how fair a transgression was or how just a solution might be. Instead, get people to see things from the other person’s perspective.
    10. the studies suggest that when partners hurt each other, there is often a shift in their goals for their relationship. They might have previously professed undying love and worked hard to cooperate with their partner, but if this partner betrays them, suddenly they become more competitive. They focus on getting even and keeping score instead of enjoying each other. They concentrate on not losing arguments rather than on compromise. They use past transgressions to remind the partner of his or her failings. Forgiveness, assert Fincham and his colleagues, can help restore more benevolent and cooperative goals to relationships.
    11. People are usually more willing to forgive if they sense trust and a willingness to sacrifice from their partner. The authors predicted that forgiving would be associated with greater well-being, especially in relationships of strong rather than weak commitment. They figured that people in highly committed relationships have more to lose if the relationship fails and so would be willing to make certain sacrifices.
    12. Hostility also has been found to be the part of type A behavior that seems to have the most pernicious health effects, such as a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease. Forsaking a grudge may also free a person from hostility and all its unhealthy consequences. It probably isn’t just hostility and stress that link unforgiveness and poor health. According to a review of the literature on forgiveness and health that my colleague Michael Scherer and I published, unforgiveness might compromise the immune system at many levels. For instance, our review suggests that unforgiveness might throw off the production of important hormones and even disrupt the way our cells fight off infections, bacteria, and other physical insults, such as mild periodontal disease.

      Type A should take magnesium.

    13. conducted a national survey of nearly 1,500 Americans, asking the degree to which each person practiced and experienced forgiveness (of others, of self, and even if they thought they had experienced forgiveness by God). Participants also reported on their physical and mental health. Toussaint and his colleagues found that older and middle-aged people forgave others more often than did young adults and also felt more forgiven by God. What’s more, they found a significant relationship between forgiving others and positive health among middle-aged and older Americans.

      From an atheist's vantage, a perceived forgiveness by a "god" might represent a breach in social contract. It is a bit like cheating: getting the benefits without giving back anything, at least directly (though I suppose the improved happiness the subject experiences may make others around them happier indirectly).

    14. To ruminate on an old transgression is to practice unforgiveness. Sure enough, in Witvliet’s research, when people recalled a grudge, their physical arousal soared. Their blood pressure and heart rate increased, and they sweated more. Ruminating about their grudges was stressful, and subjects found the rumination unpleasant. It made them feel angry, sad, anxious, and less in control. Witvliet also asked her subjects to try to empathize with their offenders or imagine forgiving them. When they practiced forgiveness, their physical arousal coasted downward. They showed no more of a stress reaction than normal wakefulness produces.
    15. researchers differ about what actually constitutes forgiveness. I’ve come to believe that how we define forgiveness usually depends on context. In cases where we hope to forgive a person with whom we do not want a continuing relationship, we usually define forgiveness as reducing or eliminating resentment and motivations toward revenge. My colleagues Michael McCullough, Kenneth Rachal, and I have defined forgiveness in close relationships to include more than merely getting rid of the negative. The forgiving person becomes less motivated to retaliate against someone who offended him or her and less motivated to remain estranged from that person. Instead, he or she becomes more motivated by feelings of goodwill, despite the offender’s hurtful actions. In a close relationship, we hope, forgiveness will not only move us past negative emotions, but move us toward a net positive feeling. It doesn’t mean forgetting or pardoning an offense.
    16. “It is much more agreeable to offend and later ask forgiveness than to be offended and grant forgiveness,” said the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. I think many people today are inclined to agree with him.
    17. Early on in this course, Dacher and Emiliana emphasized the importance of honoring (e.g., not trying to avoid or suppress) negative emotional experiences as we work to boost our own happiness in life. Happiness, research suggests, depends more on how we respond to and recover from difficult and painful experiences.
    18. we’ll see higher rates of forgiveness under those conditions that made forgiving adaptive in our ancestral environments. This means we’ll see more forgiveness in places where people are highly dependent on complex networks of cooperative relationships, policing is reliable, the system of justice is efficient and trustworthy, and social institutions are up to the task of helping truly contrite offenders make amends with the people they’ve harmed.
    19. Why might evolution have outfitted us with such an ability? Biologists have offered several hypotheses. I’m especially fond of the “valuable relationship” hypothesis, espoused by de Waal and many other primatologists. It goes like this: Animals reconcile because it repairs important relationships that have been damaged by aggression. By forgiving and repairing relationships, our ancestors were in a better position to glean the benefits of cooperation between group members—which, in turn, increased their evolutionary fitness.
    20. Chimpanzees aren’t the slightest bit unique in this respect. Other great apes, such as the bonobo and the mountain gorilla, also reconcile. And it gets more interesting still, for reconciliation isn’t even limited to primates. Goats, sheep, dolphins, and hyenas all tend to reconcile after conflicts (rubbing horns, flippers, and fur are common elements of these species’ conciliatory gestures). Of the half-dozen or so non-primates that have been studied, only domestic cats have failed to demonstrate a conciliatory tendency. (If you own a cat, this probably comes as no surprise).
    21. In highly mobile modern societies such as ours, often we can simply end relationships in which we’ve been betrayed. But in the close societies in which our earliest hominid ancestors lived, moving away usually wasn’t a good option. In fact, ostracism from the group was often a severe punishment that carried the risk of death.

      ... We might rightly view revenge as a modern-day problem, but from an evolutionary point of view, it’s also an age-old solution.

    22. when two men have an argument on the street, the mere presence of a third person doubles the likelihood that the encounter will escalate from an exchange of words to an exchange of blows.
    23. If our ancestors saw that someone didn’t seek revenge after being harmed, they may have concluded that he was an easy mark, then tried to take advantage of him themselves.
    24. By making our social environments less abundant in the factors that elicit the desire for revenge, and more abundant in the factors that elicit forgiveness. In other words, to increase forgiveness in the world, it doesn’t make sense to try to change human nature. It makes a lot more sense to try to change the world around you.
    25. The desire for revenge isn’t a disease that afflicts a few unfortunate people; rather it’s a universal trait of human nature, crafted by natural selection, that exists today because it helped our ancestors adapt to their environment. But there’s some good news, too. Evolutionary science leads us squarely to the conclusion that the capacity for forgiveness, like the desire for revenge, is also an intrinsic feature of human nature, crafted by natural selection.
    26. Somebody said that forgiveness means giving up allhope of a better past. It’s done, it’s the way that it was.
    1. People fail the acknowledgment phase of the apology when they make vague and incomplete apologies (“for whatever I did”); use the passive voice (“mistakes were made”); make the apology conditional (“if mistakes have been made”); question whether the victim was damaged or minimize the offense (“to the degree you were hurt” or “only a few enlisted soldiers were guilty at Abu Ghraib”); use the empathic “sorry” instead of acknowledging responsibility; apologize to the wrong party; or apologize for the wrong offense.
    2. Within the above structure of apology, an effective apology can generate forgiveness and reconciliation if it satisfies one or more of seven psychological needs in the offended party. The first and most common healing factor is the restoration of dignity, which is critical when the offense itself is an insult or a humiliation. Another healing factor is the affirmation that both parties have shared values and agree that the harm committed was wrong. Such apologies often follow racial or gender slurs because they help establish what kind of behavior is beyond the pale. A third healing factor is validation that the victim was not responsible for the offense. This is often necessary in rape and child abuse cases when the victim irrationally carries some of the blame. A fourth healing factor is the assurance that the offended party is safe from a repeat offense; such an assurance can come when an offender apologizes for threatening or committing physical or psychological harm to a victim. Reparative justice, the fifth healing factor, occurs when the offended sees the offending party suffer through some type of punishment. A sixth healing factor is reparation, when the victim receives some form of compensation for his or her pain. Finally, the seventh healing factor is a dialogue that allows the offended parties to express their feelings toward the offenders and even grieve over their losses. Examples of such exchanges occurred, with apologies offered, during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa.
    3. there are up to four parts to the structure of an effective apology. (Not every apology requires all four parts.) These are: acknowledgment of the offense; explanation; expressions of remorse, shame, and humility; and reparation.
    4. Forgiveness is often portrayed as a generous gift bestowed on us by someone we offended or as a gift we unconditionally extend to someone who offended us, regardless of an apology. Yet my own analysis has convinced me that forgiveness and apology are inextricably linked.
    5. Yet the embarrassed smile is more than just a smile; it has accompanying arabesques, muscle actions in the mouth that alter the appearance of the smile. The most frequent one is the lip press, a sign of inhibition. When people encounter strangers in the street, they often acknowledge each other with this modest smile. Just as common are lip puckers, a faint kiss gracing the embarrassed smile as it unfolds during its two-to-three second attempt to make peace.
    6. This view might make sense for solitary species, like the golden hamster, which flees upon being attacked, or territorial species, like many birds, that rely upon territorial arrangements to avoid deadly conflicts. But many mammals, and in particular primates, need each other to survive. Ostracism and marginalization are tickets to shortened lives. Among humans, individuals who have fewer and less healthy social bonds have been shown to live shorter lives, have compromised immune function, and be more vulnerable to disease. Our sociality, and that of many nonhuman primates, requires a mechanism that brings individuals together in the midst of conflict and aggression.
    7. This offers us insight into the true nature of embarrassment: I have discovered that this subtle display—the averted gaze, the pressed lips—is a sign of our respect for others, our appreciation of their view of things, and our commitment to the moral and social order. Far from reflecting confusion, it turns out that embarrassment can be a peacemaking force that brings people together—both during conflict and after breeches of the social contract, when there’s otherwise great potential for violence and disorder. I’ve even found evidence that facial displays of embarrassment have deep evolutionary roots, and that this seemingly inconsequential emotion provides us with a window into the ethical brain.
    8. Dacher documents his research on embarrassment, an often involuntary emotional response to having committed a social faux pas. People all around the world reflexively signal appeasement when they feel embarrassed, which serves as an unspoken acknowledgement of wrongdoing or having broken a social contract. This submissive, apologetic signal serves to avoid or prevent--rather than invite--conflict.  
  2. Sep 2015
    1. The first half of the twentieth century was drenched in the blood spilled by German and Japanese aggression, yet only a few decades later it is hard to think of two countries more pacific. Sweden spent the 17th century rampaging through Europe, yet it is now an icon of nurturing tranquility. Humans have invented the small nomadic band and the continental megastate, and have demonstrated a flexibility whereby uprooted descendants of the former can function effectively in the latter. We lack the type of physiology or anatomy that in other mammals determine their mating system, and have come up with societies based on monogamy, polygyny, and polyandry. And we have fashioned some religions in which violent acts are the entrée to paradise and other religions in which the same acts consign one to hell. Is a world of peacefully coexisting human Forest Troops possible? Anyone who says, “No, it is beyond our nature,” knows too little about primates, including ourselves.
    2. Is it possible to achieve the cooperative advantages of a small group without having the group reflexively view outsiders as the Other? One often encounters pessimism in response to this question, based on the notion that humans, as primates, are hard-wired for xenophobia. Some brain-imaging studies have appeared to support this view in a particularly discouraging way. There is a structure deep inside the brain called the amygdala, which plays a key role in fear and aggression, and experiments have shown that when subjects are presented with a face of someone from a different race, the amygdala gets metabolically active—aroused, alert, ready for action. This happens even when the face is presented subliminally, which is to say, so rapidly that the subject does not consciously see it. More recent studies, however, should mitigate this pessimism. Test a person who has a lot of experience with people of different races, and the amygdala does not activate.
    3. Working with captive primates, de Waal and Johanowicz created a mixed-sex social group of juvenile macaques, combining rhesus and stump tails together. Remarkably, instead of the rhesus macaques bullying the stump tails, over the course of a few months the rhesus males adopted the stump tails’ social style, eventually even matching the stump tails’ high rates of reconciliatory behavior. It so happens, moreover, that stump tails and rhesus macaques use different gestures when reconciling. The rhesus macaques in the study did not start using the stump tails’ reconciliatory gestures, but rather increased the incidence of their own species-typical gestures. In other words, they were not merely imitating the stump tails’ behavior; they were incorporating the concept of frequent reconciliation into their own social practices. Finally, when the newly warm-and-fuzzy rhesus macaques were returned to a larger, all-rhesus group, their new behavioral style persisted.

      An amazing way of looking at this is persistence of social qualities, regardless of the biological vector involved. On the other hand, such social qualities do not appear to be viral by any means: "This is nothing short of extraordinary. But it brings up one further question: When those rhesus macaques were transferred back into the all-rhesus world, did they spread their insights and behaviors to the others? Alas, they did not—at least not within the relatively short time they were studied. For that, we need to move on to a final case."

    4. Kummer conducted a simple experiment, trapping an adult female savanna baboon and releasing her into a hamadryas troop and trapping an adult female hamadryas and releasing her into a savanna troop. The females who were dropped in among a different species initially carried out their species-typical behavior, a major faux pas in the new neighborhood. But gradually, they absorbed the new rules. How long did this learning take? About an hour. In other words, millennia of genetic differences separating the two species, a lifetime of experience with a crucial social rule for each female—and a miniscule amount of time to reverse course completely.
    1. In a first analysis, data showed that people who took less than 10 seconds to decide how much to give gave approximately 15 percent more to the common pool than people who took longer than 10 seconds.

      Public Goods Game

    2. it suggests that maybe these prefrontal regionsthat are really important for decision making have to work a little bit harder when we decidenot to cooperate when we decide to compete or defect at the expense of the other person.
    3. we experience pleasurewhen we cooperate knowing that our cooperation is going to lead to benefits to the peoplethat we’re cooperating with.
    4. they found that reward signalling increased with reciprocated cooperation, inother words if I cooperate and I learn that you have alsocooperated then we’re both benefitting from this mutual cooperation there is greater rewardactivation or reward signalling gets boosted. And then also they found that when peoplecooperate but then are met with not cooperation in other words, unreciprocated cooperationdecreases activation in these reward processing areas.
    5. basketball campers play a basketball shooting game and in one condition it was orientedto be competitive against each other in another condition it was more focused on team playand cooperation. Afterwards he asked the kids how much fun they had, and he found that theyreally found the cooperative team play more fun and more motivating.
    1. But in a digital world, how do we connect ourselves and our children to what were once oral traditions? Hollywood has accomplished some of these tasks. The recent screen version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings brought us a classic story that is based on the epic tradition. Yet how many of us have stopped and talked with our children about the deeper meanings of this tale? As the sophistication of video gaming grows, can the power of this entertainment form be used to educate children about the pitfalls of following a herd mentality? Could these games help children develop their own internal compass in morally ambiguous situations? Or perhaps even help them think about their own ability to act heroically? And as we plow ahead in the digital era, how can the fundamental teachings of a code of honor remain relevant to human interactions?
    2. There are several concrete steps we can take to foster the heroic imagination. We can start by remaining mindful, carefully and critically evaluating each situation we encounter so that we don’t gloss over an emergency requiring our action. We should try to develop our “discontinuity detector”—an awareness of things that don’t fit, are out of place, or don’t make sense in a setting. This means asking questions to get the information we need to take responsible action. Second, it is important not to fear interpersonal conflict, and to develop the personal hardiness necessary to stand firm for principles we cherish. In fact, we shouldn’t think of difficult interactions as conflicts but rather as attempts to challenge other people to support their own principles and ideology. Third, we must remain aware of an extended time-horizon, not just the present moment. We should be engaged in the current situation, yet also be able to detach part of our analytical focus to imagine alternative future scenarios that might play out, depending on different actions or failures to act that we take in the present. In addition, we should keep part of our minds on the past, as that may help us recall values and teachings instilled in us long ago, which may inform our actions in the current situation. Fourth, we have to resist the urge to rationalize inaction and to develop justifications that recast evil deeds as acceptable means to supposedly righteous ends. Finally, we must try to transcend anticipating negative consequence associated with some forms of heroism, such as being socially ostracized. If our course is just, we must trust that others will eventually recognize the value of our heroic actions.

      Steps to heroism

    3. We hold up inventors, athletes, actors, politicians, and scientists as examples of “heroes.” These individuals are clearly role models, embodying important qualities we would all like to see in our children—curiosity, persistence, physical strength, being a Good Samaritan—but they do not demonstrate courage or fortitude. By diminishing the ideal of heroism, our society makes two mistakes. First, we dilute the important contribution of true heroes, whether they are luminary figures like Abraham Lincoln or the hero next door. Second, we keep ourselves from confronting the older, more demanding forms of this ideal. We do not have to challenge ourselves to see if, when faced with a situation that called for courage, we would meet that test. In prior generations, words like bravery, fortitude, gallantry, and valor stirred our souls.
    4. What characterizes the final step toward heroic action? Are those who do act more conscientious? Or are they simply less risk averse? We don’t know the answer to these vital questions—social science hasn’t resolved them yet. However, we believe that an important factor that may encourage heroic action is the stimulation of heroic imagination—the capacity to imagine facing physically or socially risky situations, to struggle with the hypothetical problems these situations generate, and to consider one’s actions and the consequences. By considering these issues in advance, the individual becomes more prepared to act when and if a moment that calls for heroism arises. Strengthening the heroic imagination may help to make people more aware of the ethical tests embedded in complex situations, while allowing the individual to have already considered, and to some degree transcended, the cost of their heroic action. Seeing one’s self as capable of the resolve necessary for heroism may be the first step toward a heroic outcome.
    5. Accounts of Sugihara’s life show us that his efforts to save Jewish refugees was a dramatic finale to a long list of smaller efforts, each of which demonstrated a willingness to occasionally defy the strict social constraints of Japanese society in the early 20th century. For example, he did not follow his father’s instructions to become a doctor, pursuing language study and civil service instead; his first wife was not Japanese; and in the 1930s, Sugihara resigned from a prestigious civil service position to protest the Japanese military’s treatment of the Chinese during the occupation of Manchuria. These incidents suggest that Sugihara already possessed the internal strength and self-assurance necessary to be guided by his own moral compass in uncertain situations. We can speculate that Sugihara was more willing to assert his individual view than others around him who preferred to “go along to get along.”
    6. The idea of the banality of heroism debunks the myth of the “heroic elect,” a myth that reinforces two basic human tendencies. The first is to ascribe very rare personal characteristics to people who do something special—to see them as superhuman, practically beyond comparison to the rest of us. The second is the trap of inaction—sometimes known as the “bystander effect.” Research has shown that the bystander effect is often motivated by diffusion of responsibility, when different people witnessing an emergency all assume someone else will help. Like the “good guards,” we fall into the trap of inaction when we assume it’s someone else’s responsibility to act the hero.
    7. the Heroic Imagination Project, that he founded to translate this research into action. 

      Link - from Philip Zimbardo

    8. So one of the principles of the talk, heroes are most effective not alone, not the, thesoldier in, in battle who takes a bullet for his buddy, but forming a network.
    9. Heroism is about one thing: It’s about a concern for other people in need, a concernto develop, to defending a moral cause knowing there is a personal cause or risk. That’s the key.And you do it without expectation of reward. So altruism is heroism light. Compassion is avirtue that may lead to heroism, but we don’t know. Nobody’s established said link.
    10. Narratives of the lives of Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa, and other inspiring figures are full of stories of people who, upon meeting the saintly figure, dropped their former materialistic pursuits and devoted themselves to advancing the mission of the one who elevated them. Indeed, a hallmark of elevation is that, like disgust, it is contagious.
    11. In both studies, reported feelings of happiness energized people to engage in private or self-interested pursuits, while feelings of elevation seemed to open people up and turn their atten­tion outwards, toward other people.
    12. Social disgust can then be understood as the emotional reaction people have to witness­ing others moving “down,” or exhibiting their lower, baser, less God-like nature. Human beings feel revolted by moral depravity, and this revulsion is akin to the revulsion they feel toward rotten food and cockroaches. In this way, dis­gust helps us form groups, reject devi­ants, and build a moral community. I thought about the social nature of dis­gust in this way for years, and about what exactly it means when someone moves “down” on the vertical dimension from good to evil.

      (moral) disgust and elevation are opposites

    13. . Psychologists have thought about morality primarily as a system of rules that prevents people from hurting each other and taking their possessions. But I believe that morality is much richer and more balanced. Most people don’t want to rape, steal, and kill. What they really want is to live in a moral community where people treat each other well, and in which they can satisfy their needs for love, productive work, and a sense of belonging to groups of which they are proud. We get a visceral sense that we do not live in such a moral world when we see people behave in petty, cruel, or selfish ways. But when we see a stranger perform a simple act of kindness for another stranger, it gives us a thrilling sense that maybe we do live in such a world.
    14. Here’s a puzzle: why do we care when a stranger does a good deed for another stranger? Most theories in the social sciences say that people’s actions and feelings are motivated by self-interest. So why are we sometimes moved to tears by the good deeds or heroic actions of others?

      I have to admit, I sometimes even feel this way when reading works of fiction.

    15. A second line of research is about "elevation," which refers to the warm, uplifting feeling we get when we witness someone else's good deed. Research by moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, as well as by Simone Schnall, has found that elevation systematically motivates people to perform altruistic acts themselves.
    1. So what does this mean if you’re a professional fundraiser? Maybe you should just set up a pretty website and then let people decide whether to donate of their own accord. There’s just one problem with this strategy: You’re not likely to collect much money. One of the most common reasons people report donating to charity is that someone asks them to give. The trick, then, is to craft charitable appeals that encourage people to give—without making them feel forced to comply.
    2. But it’s possible to create a sense of connection even with total strangers.  A particularly strong example of that is the website DonorsChoose.org, which allows donors to purchase supplies or fund projects for a specific group of students. Creating links between a specific donor and a specific classroom enables an emotional connection to emerge from what would otherwise be a cold financial transaction. Teachers send thank-you notes to donors, and students often do so as well. “When we deliver the initial thank-you note to the donor, our first ask is not for money,” says DonorsChoose founder Charles Best. “Instead, we ask the donor to write back to the classroom, and we measure success in the volume of two-way correspondence that we see between donors and classrooms.”

      Somewhat similar to kickstarter in some cases, though certainly the added product incentive is different.

    3. Who was happiest by the end of the day? The people who used the gift card to benefit someone else and spent time with that person at Starbucks. Investing and connecting provided the most happiness.
    4. But not only do gifts make us feel close to others; feeling closer to others makes us feel better about gifts. Research shows that people derive more happiness from spending money on “strong ties” (such as significant others, but also close friends and immediate family members) than on “weak ties” (think a friend of a friend, or a step-uncle).
    5. Even when donations were mandatory, giving to this worthwhile charity provoked activation in reward areas of the brain. But activation in these reward areas (along with self-reported satisfaction) was considerably greater when people chose to donate than when their prosocial spending was obligatory.
    6. 1. Make it a choice Most of us have experienced a situation in which we felt cornered into providing help, whether by an overeager street canvasser, a colleague’s child selling overpriced chocolate bars for her basketball team, or a friend’s awkward request for a loan (an event so ubiquitous that Googling “awkward loan requests” gets about 90 million hits). Not surprisingly, feeling cornered can suck the joy out of giving.
    7. Across the 136 countries studied, donating to charity had a similar relationship to happiness as doubling household income.
    8. How did their purchases affect them? By the end of the day, individuals who spent money on others—who engaged in what we call “prosocial spending”—were measurably happier than those who spent money on themselves, even though there were no differences between the two groups at the beginning of the day. The amount of money people found in their envelopes—five dollars or 20—had no effect on their happiness. How people spent the money mattered much more than how much of it they got. This experiment suggests that spending as little as five dollars to help someone else can increase your own happiness.
    9. Among those who reported helping others, present-focused attention predicted increased positive emotions—such as compassion, elevation, and joy—but did not predict negative emotions. By contrast, non-judgmental acceptance predicted decreased negative emotions—such as distress, disgust, and guilt—but did not predict positive emotions.
    10. In ongoing work with Barbara Fredrickson, I am exploring how levels of mindfulness predict helping behavior as well as the emotions associated with helping. Mindfulness has two important sub-components: the ability to attend to the present moment and the ability to accept experiences without judging them. I found that both aspects of mindfulness predicted helping behavior.
    11. Train your brain for compassion over the long term. Mind-training techniques may be better suited to increase people’s ability (rather than motivation) to experience compassion. There are many meditation traditions that encourage people to cultivate compassion toward self, family, friends, enemies, and strangers. Compassion cultivation techniques have been shown to increase positive emotions and social support, reduce negative distress at human suffering, and reduce people’s fears of feeling compassion for others. Such training programs may prevent the collapse of compassion, by letting people overcome fears of fatigue and accept their own compassion.
    12. Streamline helping opportunities to make them seem less costly. After the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Red Cross encouraged people to donate $10 by simply texting the term “REDCROSS” to a pre-specified number from their smartphones. By making pro-social behavior as simple and quick as the press of a button, Red Cross was able to increase compassion and helping for many people. These efficient helping opportunities could be embedded into various social media sites—such as Facebook—to provide low-effort conduits for compassion and helping.

      This is really more general; so often, doing "the right thing" is prohibitively costly.

    13. Increase the sense that helping will make a difference. Especially in situations where lots of people are suffering, we justify turning off compassion by saying that helping would just be a “drop in the bucket.” If helping organizations highlighted the impact of future donations, it could lead people to feel more compassion and act more pro-socially.
    14. I also assessed individual differences in how well the participants could control their emotions, which turned out to be decisive. The compassion of unskilled emotion regulators did not collapse between one and eight victims. By contrast, skilled emotion regulators restricted their compassion as the number of refugees increased.
    15. People expect that helping eight victims costs more than helping one, so imposing a donation request created an incentive to turn off compassion. The rest of the participants were not told they would have to help; by removing the financial incentive to turn off compassion, I hoped to reverse compassion collapse. And that’s exactly what I found. When people expected to help, they showed more compassion for one victim than for eight victims. But this reversed when people did not expect to have to help. By showing that the amount of compassion is dependent upon expected costs, the experiment revealed that we don’t face some natural limit to our compassion.

      I view this need of "mandatory help" or "expected help" as a potential source of stress.

    16. For these reasons, people may actively and strategically turn off their compassion. According to our theory, compassion collapse is not due to a limitation on how much compassion we can feel. Instead, it’s the end result of people actively controlling their emotions.
    17. But when you measure people’s emotional experiences in real time—rather than their predictions—a very different pattern emerges. Rather than feeling more compassion when more people are suffering, people ironically feel less—a phenomenon my colleague Keith Payne and I call “the collapse of compassion.”
    18. if we feel like helping is not possibleor we don’t have the capacity to do so, so in this research when we encounter a lot ofpeople whoneed assistance, we’re actually much less likely to help. And that tells us that sortof cultivatingfeelings of efficacy and in a way to feel empowered to help at the right level is reallyimportantin meeting these challenges to kindness.
    19. BushmanandAnderson and others have marshalled a lot of evidence looking at the experimental effectsof playing violent video games, and not only does it tend to increase aggression (althoughthat finding is a little bit controversial right now), but just as importantly, kind ofsaturatingyourself in these violent images and these violent games what it definitely does is itreducesyour cooperative, kind tendencies. So be wary of, or be mindful of, these violent,saturatedplaces of our culture.
    20. if theywere on time and feeling like they weren't rushed, over 60% of the time they attendedto thatperson in need; if they were just a minute or two late, that likelihood of helping droppedto10 percent - a six fold decrease in kindness just by feeling a little bit busy.

      busyness as a barrier to kindness

    1. Her research does show that if you do the same kind thingfor thesame person over and over again it sort of loses its gravity. So try being kind to differentpeoplein different ways five times on a given day, and once again write it down.Describe what you did, how you did it, and whether there was any impact andresult of what you did and this will make the experience richer and more interesting.
    1. suggest that lonely people have significantly more trouble bouncing back from life’s stresses and strains. For instance, lonely and non-lonely college students in their study reported similar daily activities, but lonely college students experienced more stress in those activities. Among older adults, lonely individuals said they felt more helpless and threatened than did non-lonely people. What’s more, higher stress levels were associated with worse health: Lonely college students had higher blood pressure than non-lonely ones, putting them at greater risk for heart disease, and this health disparity was even greater between lonely and non-lonely older adults. Plus, Hawkley and Cacioppo found that these lonely older adults had higher levels of stress-related hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, which may weaken the immune system over time.
    2. over the past two decades, Americans have become much more socially isolated from one another: More Americans live alone or with just one other person; on average, they have one-third fewer close friends; and 25 percent of Americans now say they have no close friends at all—more than double the figure from two decades ago.
    1. Giving has also been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone (also released during sex and breast feeding) that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. In laboratory studies, Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has found that a dose of oxytocin will cause people to give more generously and to feel more empathy towards others,
    2. A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”
    3. teaching college students to “count their blessings” and cultivate gratitude caused them to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about their lives overall.
    4. Giving evokes gratitude. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds.
    5. What’s more, when we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” writes Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”
    6. In one study, participants rated the photographs of classmates in their high school yearbooks for physical attractiveness, familiarity, liking, and respect. The researchers then had strangers (of the same sex and roughly same age) who had never met the people behind the photographs rate the same photographs for physical attractiveness. In general, the more the people in the yearbook were familiar, liked, and respected, the more physically attractive they were perceived to be. The effect of non-physical traits on perceptions of physical attractiveness was significant for both sexes.
    7. when we givespontaneously, we actually give significantly more, upwards of 65% of our resources comparedto when we deliberate and calculate and think about how much we give, where our giving drops
    8. The happier participants felt about their past generosity, the more likely they were in the present to choose to spend on someone else instead of themselves. Not all participants who remembered their past kindness felt happy. But the ones who did were overwhelmingly more likely to double down on altruism.
    9. The groups that practiced kindness and engaged in novel acts both experienced a significant—and roughly equal—boost in happiness; the third group didn’t get any happier. The findings suggest that good deeds do in fact make people feel good—even when performed over as little as 10 days—and there may be particular benefits to varying our acts of kindness, as novelty seems linked to happiness as well. But kindness may have a longer, even more profound effect on our happiness
    10. people who gave money away rose in happiness over the course of the day, people who spentinon themselves showed a slight decrease in happiness, and really impressively, more recentworkis showing by Dunn and others that this finding replicates in dozens and dozens of countries,thatgiving gives you a bigger happiness benefit than spending on the self.
    11. giving kids rewards for their prosocial behavior may actually undermine kindness. One possible explanation for these somewhat counterintuitive findings is that, in order for children to grow up seeing themselves as kind and giving, it is important for them to feel that they do good because they want to, not because others expect them to.
    12. we weresuccessful in making people happier, but only in that condition where the students did alltheir acts of kindness in one single day. So, again, like tomorrow you go out and dofive(5) acts of kindness—and I think it is because it was more powerful, you know, just sortof, five (5) acts that tended to be pretty small things, not all of them were big things.It is just very salient that you go out and it makes you feel really good, spreading the actsof kindness across the week might have just made them not as distinguishable from theother things we tend to do.

      I was actually really surprised by this; I expected it to be the opposite finding, but, I suppose if one spends a day doing "endurance training in kindness", one is more likely to be kind at other times in the week.

    1. warm, sensitive parenting for three year olds predicts greater focused concentration in the children one year later—which in turn predicts greater sympathy at ages six and seven. Vagal tone in the kids at three years also predicts sympathy three and four years later. As was the case for parenting style, the Vagal tone effect was largely related to the children’s concentration skills as four years olds.  Together, these data suggest that warm, sensitive, authoritative parenting may support skills like managing emotions and focusing attention, and that children with higher Vagal tone are more likely to have these skills, which in turn paves the way for sympathy for other peoples’ suffering.
    2. Dacher spoke about the Vagus nerve and its role in social connection and, in turn, happiness. In the essay below, Emiliana summarizes very recent research showing that Vagal tone, an index of the general strength of influence that a person's Vagus nerve has on their heart, predicts the emergence of sympathetic behavior over development--and further, that in college students, experiencing compassion actually engages the Vagus nerve. 
    3. inducingcompassion makes people say that they feel more similar to others, and in particular,vulnerableothers, whereas inducing pride makes people feel different from vulnerable others.
    4. Pride doesn’t illicit and upregulation of vagal tone, pride instead causes very littlechange because again pride is self-focused as opposed to focused on others.
    5. people who are feeling compassion engage their vagus system.
    6. In the case of compassion, when you’re able to manage your own distressor not relate to your empathic experience as personal distress but rather a caregivingurge, this isa benefit to your health and wellbeing, and your sense of happiness.
    7. being distressed by suffering is not the most happy-inducing way to respondtoother people’s suffering. Rather, the better approach is to feel, to allow your caregivingurge tocome online and drive your behaviors.
    8. Pity: Feeling sorry for the suffering or misfortune of someone else. Pity is similar to compassion, but it suggests a power imbalance, whereby the observer occupies a place of superiority and looks down upon the person who is suffering.
    9. Sympathy: Sympathy, which means "to feel together," is sometimes used synonymously with compassion. However, while sympathy does refer to feelings of sorrow or sadness about another person's suffering, it does not typically involve the urge or motivation to help, or do anything about the situation. In other words, a person may feel sympathetic towards another person's difficulties, but not feel inclined to help. 
    10.  research by Daniel Batson and others suggests that empathy is much more likely to lead to altruism when it elicits the specific feeling of empathic concern, which is when we observe someone in need and truly "feel for" that person--a state similiar to compassion--rather than wanting to escape the situation or feeling overwhelmed by distress.
    11. Some evolutionary biologists argue that organisms may sometimes put themselves at risk in order to help another because they expect that the other organism will return the favor down the line, a concept known as reciprocal altruism.
    12. Compassion: Literally means “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you witness another’s suffering and feel motivated to help relieve that suffering.
    13. Altruism: Altruism is when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves
    14. Kindness is a general, everyday term describing behaviors that involve being friendly, generous, or considerate. Pro-social is the term favored by scientists to refer to kind, helpful behaviors or states, but it is also quite broad.
    15. In the Oliners’ study of Germans who helped rescue Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, one of the strongest predictors of this inspiring behavior was the individual’s memory of growing up in a family that prioritized compassion and altruism.
    16. Nancy Eisenberg, Richard Fabes, and Martin Hoffman have found that parents who use induction and reasoning raise children who are better adjusted and more likely to help their peers. This style of parenting seems to nurture the basic tools of compassion: an appreciation of others’ suffering and a desire to remedy that suffering.
    17. First, children securely attached to their parents, compared to insecurely attached children, tend to be sympathetic to their peers as early as age three and a half, according to the research of Everett Waters, Judith Wippman, and Alan Sroufe. In contrast, researchers Mary Main and Carol George found that abusive parents who resort to physical violence have less empathetic children.
    18. Recent neuroscience studies suggest that positive emotions are less heritable—that is, less determined by our DNA—than the negative emotions. Other studies indicate that the brain structures involved in positive emotions like compassion are more “plastic”—subject to changes brought about by environmental input.
    19. Taken together, our strands of evidence suggest the following. Compassion is deeply rooted in human nature; it has a biological basis in the brain and body. Humans can communicate compassion through facial gesture and touch, and these displays of compassion can serve vital social functions, strongly suggesting an evolutionary basis of compassion. And when experienced, compassion overwhelms selfish concerns and motivates altruistic behavior.
    20. Remarkably, people in these experiments reliably identified compassion, as well as love and the other ten emotions, from the touches to their forearm. This strongly suggests that compassion is an evolved part of human nature—something we’re universally capable of expressing and understanding.
    21. a distinct signal of compassion would soothe others in distress, allow people to identify the good-natured individuals with whom they’d want long-term relationships, and help forge bonds between strangers and friends. Research by Nancy Eisenberg, perhaps the world’s expert on the development of compassion in children, has found that there is a particular facial expression of compassion, characterized by oblique eyebrows and a concerned gaze. When someone shows this expression, they are then more likely to help others.
    22. breastfeeding and massages elevate oxytocin levels in the blood (as does eating chocolate). In some recent studies I’ve conducted, we have found that when people perform behaviors associated with compassionate love—warm smiles, friendly hand gestures, affirmative forward leans—their bodies produce more oxytocin. This suggests compassion may be self-perpetuating: Being compassionate causes a chemical reaction in the body that motivates us to be even more compassionate.
    23. helping others brings the same pleasure we get from the gratification of personal desire.
    24. What is the ANS profile of compassion? As it turns out, when young children and adults feel compassion for others, this emotion is reflected in very real physiological changes: Their heart rate goes down from baseline levels, which prepares them not to fight or flee, but to approach and soothe.
    25. Even compassion, the concern we feel for another being’s welfare, has been treated with downright derision. Kant saw it as a weak and misguided sentiment: “Such benevolence is called soft-heartedness and should not occur at all among human beings,” he said of compassion. Many question whether true compassion exists at all—or whether it is inherently motivated by self-interest.
    26. a simpletraining exercise where you practice loving kindness, where you’re just thinking compassionatethoughts towards others and towards yourself over time, actually pretty dramatically increasesyour own personal happiness, suggesting that the Dalai Lama was on to something when hesaidthat compassion is the pathway to happiness.
    27. Darwin made the case that sympathy, or compassion, is our strongest instinct. And I’ll quote,because “sympathy will have been increased through natural selection for those communitieswhich included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish thebest and raise the greatest number of offspring.”
    1. Read fiction. Reading a great work of literature—or watching a film or play—allows us to temporarily step out of our own lives and fully immerse ourselves in another person’s experience. Indeed, research suggests that fiction readers are better attuned to the social and emotional lives of others.
    2. If nothing else, you can remind yourself that you are both members of the human species.

      A nice sentiment, but if we look at the bottom 1%, this isn't necessarily something to be proud of in my opinion.

    1. The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.
    2. Organizations, too, should be ambitious with their empathic thinking. Bill Drayton, the renowned “father of social entrepreneurship,” believes that in an era of rapid technological change, mastering empathy is the key business survival skill because it underpins successful teamwork and leadership. His influential Ashoka Foundation has launched the Start Empathy initiative, which is taking its ideas to business leaders, politicians and educators worldwide.

      Empathy Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination

      Link

    3. A final trait of HEPs is that they do far more than empathize with the usual suspects. We tend to believe empathy should be reserved for those living on the social margins or who are suffering. This is necessary, but it is hardly enough. We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be “enemies” in some way. If you are a campaigner on global warming, for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives—understanding their thinking and motivations—if you want to devise effective strategies to shift them towards developing renewable energy. A little of this “instrumental empathy” (sometimes known as “impact anthropology”) can go a long way.

      Empathy Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination

    4. Beyond education, the big challenge is figuring out how social networking technology can harness the power of empathy to create mass political action. Twitter may have gotten people onto the streets for Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, but can it convince us to care deeply about the suffering of distant strangers, whether they are drought-stricken farmers in Africa or future generations who will bear the brunt of our carbon-junkie lifestyles? This will only happen if social networks learn to spread not just information, but empathic connection.

      Empathy Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change

    5. Adam Hochschild reminds us, “The abolitionists placed their hope not in sacred texts but human empathy,”

      Empathy Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change

    6. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences. Organizations such as the Israeli-Palestinian Parents Circle put it all into practice by bringing together bereaved families from both sides of the conflict to meet, listen, and talk. Sharing stories about how their loved ones died enables families to realize that they share the same pain and the same blood, despite being on opposite sides of a political fence, and has helped to create one of the world’s most powerful grassroots peace-building movements.

      Empathy Habit 4: Listen hard—and open up

    7. George Orwell is an inspiring model.  After several years as a colonial police officer in British Burma in the 1920s, Orwell returned to Britain determined to discover what life was like for those living on the social margins. “I wanted to submerge myself, to get right down among the oppressed,” he wrote. So he dressed up as a tramp with shabby shoes and coat, and lived on the streets of East London with beggars and vagabonds. The result, recorded in his book Down and Out in Paris and London, was a radical change in his beliefs, priorities, and relationships. He not only realized that homeless people are not “drunken scoundrels”—Orwell developed new friendships, shifted his views on inequality, and gathered some superb literary material. It was the greatest travel experience of his life. He realised that empathy doesn’t just make you good—it’s good for you, too.

      Empathy Habit 3: Try another person’s life

    8. We all have assumptions about others and use collective labels—e.g., “Muslim fundamentalist,” “welfare mom”—that prevent us from appreciating their individuality.

      Empathy Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities

    9. Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own. Curiosity is good for us too: Happiness guru Martin Seligman identifies it as a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction. And it is a useful cure for the chronic loneliness afflicting around one in three Americans. Cultivating curiosity requires more than having a brief chat about the weather. Crucially, it tries to understand the world inside the head of the other person. We are confronted by strangers every day, like the heavily tattooed woman who delivers your mail or the new employee who always eats his lunch alone. Set yourself the challenge of having a conversation with one stranger every week. All it requires is courage.

      Empathy Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers

    10. Evolutionary biologists like Frans de Waal have shown that we are social animals who have naturally evolved to care for each other, just like our primate cousins. And psychologists have revealed that we are primed for empathy by strong attachment relationships in the first two years of life.  But empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives—and we can use it as a radical force for social transformation.
    11. And don’t confuse it with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you—they might have different tastes.” Empathy is about discovering those tastes. 
    12. We rely more on what we feel than what we think when solving moral dilemmas. It’s not that religion and culture don’t have a role to play, but the building blocks of morality clearly predate humanity. We recognize them in our primate relatives, with empathy being most conspicuous in the bonobo ape and reciprocity in the chimpanzee. Moral rules tell us when and how to apply our empathic tendencies, but the tendencies themselves have been in existence since time immemorial.