The Evolutionary Benefits of Altruism - Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley


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Dr. Dacher Keltner is of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, whose recent book "Born to Be Good", is a profound study of how emotion is the key to living the good life and how the path to happiness goes through human emotions that connect people to one another. As it turns out, humans are not hardwired to lead lives that are "nasty, brutish, and short". We are in fact born to be good. This session will give us a glimpse into sociology and new science around an old mystery of human evolution and psychology: why we have evolved positive emotions like gratitude, amusement, awe, empathy, altruism, kindness, and compassion that promote ethical action and are the fabric of cooperative societies, and by association, sheds light on the power behind brands that connect to the greater good. Special topics include the power of touching, facial expressions, oxytocin, and the vagus nerve.

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The Evolutionary Benefits of Altruism - Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley

  1. 1. The Evolutionary Benefits of Altruism Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley
  2. 2. Beyond Happiness: Jen Science and the Good Life Dacher Keltner University of California, Berkeley
  3. 3. The Bad is Stronger than The Good? •  Negative Contamination •  Self-Interest as Default? •  Altruism = selfish genes or Freudian Fantasy •  Attachment and Anxiety
  4. 4. Well Placed Cynics “ The very emphasis of the commandment: Thou shalt not kill, makes it certain that we are descended from an endlessly long chain of generations of murderers, whose love of murder was in their blood as it is perhaps also in ours.” — Sigmund Freud “ If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject. ” — Ayn Rand
  5. 5. Well Placed Cynics “ Of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.” — Machiavelli “ The natural world is “grossly immoral”. Natural selection “can honestly be described as a process for maximizing short sighted selfishness” — George Williams “ Sympathy as a good natured emotion is always blind and weak. ” — Immanuel Kant
  6. 6. Positive Emotions as Second Class Citizens •  Negative more numerous •  Negative greater hedonic impact •  Positive byproduct of negative •  Negative biological, evolved
  7. 7. Darwin’s Joys Admiration eyes opened, eyebrows raised, eyes bright, smile, Affirmation nod head, open eyes widely Astonishment eyes open, mouth open, eyebrows raised, hands placed over mouth Contemplation frown, wrinkle skin under lower eyelids, eyes divergent, head droops, hands to forehead, mouth, or chin, thumb/index finger to lip Determination firmly closed mouth, arms folded across breast, shoulders raised Devotion face upwards, eyelids upturned, fainting, pupils upwards and inwards, humbling kneeling posture, hands upturned Happiness eyes sparkle, skin under eyes wrinkled, mouth drawn back at corners High Spirits zygomatic, body erect, head upright, eyes open, frontal muscles, Cheerfulness (AU 1 + 2), eyelids raised, nostrils raised, eating gestures (rubbing belly), air suck, lip smacks, Laughter tears, deep inspiration, contraction of chest, shaking of body, head nods to and fro, lower jaw quivers up/down, lip corners drawn backwards, head thrown backward, shakes, head face red, orbicularis, lip press/bite
  8. 8. Darwin’s Joys Love beaming eyes, smiling cheeks (when seeing old friend), touch, gentle smile, protruding lips (in chimps), kissing, nose rubs, Maternal Love touch, gentle smile, tender eyes Romantic Love breathing hurried, faces flush Joy muscle tremble, purposeless movements, laughter, clapping hands, jumping, dancing about, stamping, chuckle/giggle, zygomatic, orbicularis, upper lip raised, naso labial fold formed Pride head, body erect, look down on others, Tender (sympathy) tears
  9. 9. The Distal Evolution of Pro-Sociality Care-taking Vulnerable offspring Flattened Hierarchies Affordance rather than coercion Conflict and Reconciliation Reconciliation rather than territory Fragile Monogamy Pairbonding, paternal care
  10. 10. The Positive Emotions Resources Enthusiasm Approach Goal Contentment Satiation Social Relations Love Attachment Desire Reproduction Compassion Nurturance Pride Elevated Status Gratitude Reciprocity/Friendship Awe Leaders Distress Reduction Relief Knowledge Interest Learning Amusement Transformation/Insight
  11. 11. Oxytocin and Trust •  Functions of Oxytocin •  Faithful and frisky voles •  The Neuroeconomics of Trust
  12. 12. Varieties of Smiles
  13. 13. Affiliation Cues Sexual Cues Contr. for Contr. for Affiliation Sexual Cues Cues Oxytocin Reactivity .50** .11 Oxytocin Recovery .15 .12
  14. 14. Functions of Touch •  Reward •  Reinforce Reciprocity •  Signal Safety •  Soothe
  15. 15. Touch and the spread of goodness
  16. 16. Epoch change in RSA Self-reported compassion .33* Self reported pride -.30* Self-other similarity .29*
  17. 17. Resting Vagal Tone: Time 5: 6 months later Time 1 Extraversion .40** Agreeableness .32* PANAS Positive Affect .40** PANAS Negative Affect .05 Optimism .30* Pessimism -.21* Health -.21* Spiritual Transformation .26*
  18. 18. Wired For Good Care to survive ENS Coordination Ethical Nervous System Flattened OFC Hierarchies Vagus Nerve Reconciled Conflict Oxytocin Fragile Monogamy Touch, voice, face
  19. 19. The American Paradox
  20. 20. “ A Person of Humanity, wishing to establish his own character, also establishes the character of others.” — Confucius “ The great secret of morals is love, or a going out of our own nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.” — Shelley
  21. 21. Designed to be Kind “ At the most fundamental level our nature is compassionate, and that cooperation, not conflict, lies at the heart of the basic principles that govern our human existence.” — His Holiness, the Dalai Lama “ …the social instincts lead an animal to take pleasure in the society of his fellows, to feel a certain amount of sympathy with them, and to perform various services for them… the greater strength of the social or maternal instincts than that of any other instinct or motive; for they are performed too instantaneously for reflection, or for pleasure or even misery might be felt. In a timid man, on the other hand, the instinct of self-preservation might be so strong…” — Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man
  22. 22. THANK YOU!