Here’s a question: Is there an evolutionary advantage to being kind? 

Our guest today is Dacher Keltner, an eminent scientist who will make the case that, contrary to popular conceptions of evolution (dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest), and contrary to a lot of what we see on the news, our species is actually uniquely wired for kindness and compassion.

Dacher Keltner is the Director of the Social Interaction Lab at the University of California at Berkeley, the Faculty Director of the Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, and the author of the book Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. 

In this episode, we talk about Darwin’s perspective on human sympathy and selfishness, where he stands on the question of Original Sin versus Buddha Nature, the importance of touch when it comes to communicating compassion, and the relationship between teasing and kindness. 

We are bringing you this Ten Percent Happier podcast series in collaboration with the Apple TV+ Original Series Ted Lasso because k –> Podcast Link


  • Author of book “Born to be good”
  • Tries to dismiss the idea “nice guys finish last”
  • “transformation” showing kindness has become more desired in society, in leadership and in parental and social contexts
  • Darwin claims sympathy is a very useful tool and is incredibly important for thriving societies
    • “survival of the fittest” often misunderstood
  • Homosapiens became the apex predator not due to our ability but our cooperation
  • Joesph henrich “we share 40% of resources with a stranger”
  • Micheal tommosello “18 month olds will try to help and empathize with others”
  • Data shows “outrage” brings about social good not just for the group but yourself i.e protests
    • This also improves with pro-social tendencies
  • With kindness there are gender issues (men seem to be more aggressive and manipulative, women seem to be more cooperative and less confrontational)
  • Kindness =/= being exploited
  • Broad review looking at how social movements gain power
    • People seeking change should feel anger but not rage
  • Original sin (humans want to sin) vs buddha nature (essentially good)
    • dali lama “compassion is our natural state”
    • primitive parts of brain activate when see signs of human suffering
    • oxytocin leads to you being more generous
    • vagus nerve engages when we feel compassion
    • parts of your brain light up when we give things away
    • seems to be 45/55 sin/buddha
  • Compassion is a skill that can be trained through meditation
  • Seems to be positive movement socially (womens rights, lgbt issues, race issues)
  • Awe is very important and can be observed in chimps
    • Studies show is “awe” is shared with strangers you're more compassionate with them.
    • The environment is the biggest source of awe
  • Laughter & play
    • Play is one of the deepest thing mammals have evolved, dogs, rats, birds all play
    • Teasing, joking, comedy
    • “how do you know you're falling in love?” teasing, laughing together etc
  • “one of the things in finding more happiness is confrontation and conflict”
  • People who're really kind or empathetic seem to not be as corruptible by power
    • Power reveals

#podcastnotes #tenpercenthappier

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