Emma Seppala, PhD is the associate director of Stanford School of Medicine’s The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) and a well-known researcher and speaker on the science of well-being, social connection and compassion. BeWell spoke with Dr. Seppala to glean her latest insights and learned that strong medicine does not always come in a prescription drug vial.
Are we wired for kindness?
Absolutely. Whether scientists have studied the animal kingdom (from rats to primates), infants or adults, our first instinct is to help someone in need. In general, our first instinct and spontaneous impulse is to help, to act fairly and kindly. Living a life of purpose and care is so deeply beneficial that researchers believe this trait has emerged as a part of human evolution. At our core, both animals and human beings have what Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, coins a “compassionate instinct”: compassion is a natural and automatic response that has ensured our survival. Darwin’s message was not “survival of the fittest” (a phrase coined later by Herbert Spencer), but rather “survival of the kindest” — because we need each other’s support and care to survive as a species.
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