According to a recent article, there’s scientific reason to believe that human beings may have evolved from the inherently selfish beings of the past (think philosophies of Darwin and Hobbes), into inherently caring and compassionate beings. In fact, UC Berkeley psychologist, Dacher Keltner, pinpoints altruism as the precise reason why we are a successful species. The article even goes so far as to say:
This new science of altruism and the physiological underpinnings of compassion is finally catching up with Darwin’s observations nearly 130 years ago, that sympathy is our strongest instinct”
Some of our great-grandparents could have actually said, “back when competition was the most basic human instinct…”
- Our brain secretes oxytocin (“the cuddle hormone”) which promotes social interaction and compassion. “The tendency to be more empathetic may be influenced by a single gene,” the article reads.
- In psychological games, studies have found that the more players gave to the “public good,” the more respect they received– and those who acted in their own self-interest during these studies were shunned.
- Parents raising socially conscious kids (by teaching gratitude and generosity), find their children become more resilient (there’s an echo of the survival of the fittest).
This is more than just good news for nice guys who are sick of finishing last (and probably haven’t been finishing last for a long while). If we are physically evolving into more caring beings, then our way of life is and has been evolving with us. I believe it’s hard to say how culturally different we would be if we were still producing low levels of oxytocin.
But these studies and the possibility that we are evolving to the benefit of the public good make me excited (if only for this moment) about our growth. Though perhaps a stretch, I like to believe that the inclination for social change will continue to thrive and mature with my children and grandchildren.
About the author
MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore