Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Notes From Facebook Compassion Research Day

Here are my raw notes from day spent at Facebook, focusing on fascinating presentation from  Dacher Keltner, researcher and evolutionary psychologist from UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center.

Sympathy Breakthroughs:
  • Jonathan Glover, Humanity
  • 75% of soldiers refuse to shoot at enemy
Principles of the spread of compassion:
  • emergence of care-giving system
  • reliable identification
  • contagious compassion
  • it pays to be good
  • from gene to meme
Signals of compassion:
  • a reliable signal of compassion: it's not in the face
  • the vocal register of compassion: amusement, awe, compassion, enthusiasm, interest communicated through voice
Self-less genes

Viral goodness: the spread of compassion
  • neonate distress cries
  • emotional, physiological convergence in friends
  • compassion inspires elevation
  • generosity spreads through networks (Fowler & Cristakis)
  • altruism increased in altruistic clusters
  • collective joys
Tactile contact: the first language of compassion
  • human skin is largest organ that gathers all kind of social information
  • touch: rewards, builds trust, signals safety, soothes
  • UC Berkeley study on emotion and touch: correct label, were able to identify emotion that was intended through touch
  • coding touch
  • women misread men's compassion signals through touch
  • men miss women's anger signals through touch
Vagal superstars:
  • richer friendship networks
  • more sympathetitc prosocial children
  • trusted more in interactions with strangers
Compassion deficits in US children: empathy has dropped, narcissism has risen

Making compassion a meme, a sticky idea:
  • oliners and rescuers
  • reading compassionate words like "hug" makes people more altruistic, less prejudiced toward outgroups
Competitive compassion:
  • compassion as a basis of status
  • reputation
Awe and the sacred:
  • transcendent experiences of beauty give people a sense of common humanity
  • experiences of awe trigger activation in the vagus nerve
  • experiences of awe trigger altruism, compassion
A compassionate, cooperative future:
  • Pinker and the rise of cooperation, compassion
  • Wright and the rise of nonzero relations
  • cooperation fares better than competition
  • the wisdom of the tit-for-tat (Axelrod, 1984): cooperates, forgives, not envious, strong
(I especially resonated with the parts about touch and voice. In my work with the dying and persons with dementia, I have found both touch and voice to be the primary channels for relatedness and also vehicles for expression of compassion.)

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