The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness


Leading scientists and science writers reflect on the life-changing, perspective-changing, new science of human goodness.
In these pages you will hear from Steven Pinker, who asks, “Why is there peace?”; Robert Sapolsky, who examines violence among primates; Paul Ekman, who talks with the Dalai Lama about global compassion; Daniel Goleman, who proposes “constructive anger”; and many others. Led by renowned psychologist Dacher Keltner, the Greater Good Science Center, based at ...

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The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness

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Leading scientists and science writers reflect on the life-changing, perspective-changing, new science of human goodness.
In these pages you will hear from Steven Pinker, who asks, “Why is there peace?”; Robert Sapolsky, who examines violence among primates; Paul Ekman, who talks with the Dalai Lama about global compassion; Daniel Goleman, who proposes “constructive anger”; and many others. Led by renowned psychologist Dacher Keltner, the Greater Good Science Center, based at the University of California in Berkeley, has been at the forefront of the positive psychology movement, making discoveries about how and why people do good. Four times a year the center publishes its findings with essays on forgiveness, moral inspiration, and everyday ethics in Greater Good magazine. The best of these writings are collected here for the first time.
A collection of personal stories and empirical research, The Compassionate Instinct will make you think not only about what it means to be happy and fulfilled but also about what it means to lead an ethical and compassionate life.

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Editorial Reviews

“[T]his collection stimulates serious reflection.”
Library Journal
Keltner (research director & cofounder, Greater Good Science Ctr., Univ. of California-Berkeley; Born To Be Good) and editors of Greater Good magazine Jason Marsh and Jeremy Adam Smith compile 35 short articles from the publication, beginning with scientific roots, taking up interpersonal relationships, and ending with society and politics. The short, accessible essays—with no references or bibliography—underscore empathy, forgiveness, gratitude, happiness, trust, and apology. Contributors include Jonathan Haidt, Alfie Kohn, Daniel Goleman, Meredith Maran, Steven Pinker, and Desmond Tutu. While encouraging, this collection is not Pollyannaish: experiments reveal the noxious effects of increased power, the ease with which people slip into bully and victim roles, and the difficulty of empathizing with strangers or with masses suffering as opposed to the grief of individuals. Dave Grossman's findings on soldiers' reluctance to kill, training methods used to bypass conscience, and the increase of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans make a startling, important, optimistic statement about compassion. VERDICT A readable digest of current work in positive psychology for a general audience.—E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393337280
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/4/2010
  • Pages: 316
  • Sales rank: 241,377
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Dacher Keltner is Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught social psychology for the past 21 years and is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award for Letters and Sciences. His research focuses on the prosocial emotions (such as love, sympathy, and gratitude), morality, and power. Other awards include the Western Psychological Association’s award for outstanding contribution to research, the Positive Psychology Prize for excellence in research, and the Distinguished Mentoring Award at UC Berkeley. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. In 2008, the Utne Reader listed Dacher as one of the 50 visionaries changing the world.

Jason Marsh is an editor of Greater Good magazine. He lives in Berkeley, CA.

Jeremy Adam Smith is the senior editor of Greater Good magazine and the author of The Daddy Shift. He lives in San Francisco.

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Table of Contents

Contributors xv

Part 1 The Scientific Roots of Human Goodness

Introduction 5

The Compassionate Instinct Dacher Keltner 8

The Evolution of Empathy Frans B. M. de Waal 16

Peace among Primates Robert M. Sapolsky 26

Hope on the Battlefield Dave Grossman 36

Political Primates Christopher Boehm 45

The Forgiveness Instinct Michael E. McCullough 51

The New Science of Forgiveness Everett L. Worthington Jr. 62

Brain Trust Michael Kosfeld 72

Pay It Forward Robert A. Emmons 77

Wired to Be Inspired Jonathan Haidt 86

Part 2 How To Cultivate Goodness In Relationships With Friends, Family, Coworkers, and Neighbors

Introduction 97

Feeling Like Partners Philip A. Cowan Carolyn Pape Cowan Neera Mehta 100

Love, Honor, and Thank Jess Alberts Angela Trethewey 111

Stumbling toward Gratitude Catherine Price 118

The Choice to Forgive Fred Luskin 126

Compassion across Cubicles Jill Suttie 133

Are You a Jerk at Work? Robert I. Sutton 140

A Feeling for Fiction Keith Oatley 150

A Different View Alfie Kohn 157

Can I Trust You? A Conversation between Paul Ekman and His Daughter Eve Jason Marsh 161

Hot to Help Daniel Goleman 171

Part 3 How To Cultivate Goodness in Society and Politics

Introduction 177

We Are All Bystanders Dacher Keltner Jason Marsh 179

The Cost of Apathy: An Interview with Robert Reich Jason Marsh 190

The Activism Cure Meredith Maran 195

America's Trust Fall Jeremy Adam Smith Pamela Paxton 203

The Power Paradox Dacher Keltner 213

Edible Ethics: An Interview with Michael Pollan Jason Marsh 223

The Hot Spot Lisa Bennett 230

In Search of the Moral Voice Jason Marsh 239

Making Peace through Apology Aaron Lazare 246

Truth +Reconciliation Desmond Tutu 255

Why Is There Peace? Steven Pinker 260

The Morality of Global Giving: An Interview with Jan Egeland Jason Marsh 267

Global Compassion: A Conversation between the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman Paul Ekman 274

The Heroine with One Thousand Faces Lisa Bennett 283

The Banality of Heroism Zeno Franco Philip Zimbardo 287

Illustration Credits 301

Index 303

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