How do we advance and spread something that is so essential yet seemingly difficult to grasp as “happiness” and “well-being”? Jason Marsh joins us today for an engaging discussion about how The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley is doing just that with their open source method of sharing their research. What they have found is building happiness and well-being is about the cultivation of relationships, how we expand our concept of the “in” group, how we make the distinction between empathy and compassion, and how we can improve the conditions to make each and every contact with the people we interact with more positive.

In this episode, Jason discusses how outcomes can change when we know what is expected of us, like when children play “The Wall Street Game” vs. “The Cooperation Game.” And how the Bridging Differences study breaks down the barriers between those we see as different. Human beings have an innate draw towards kindness and compassion yet also the pervasiveness to dehumanize people we disagree with. How do we stimulate the positive natural impulses so we can bridge that gap between what we hope to see in the world vs. what we do see in the world? Listen in on this fascinating discussion so we can build a happier and healthier world.

Show Highlights:

  • Shrinking the change, clearing the path and making research accessible
  • Making research more applicable to people’s everyday lives
  • Combatting the pervasiveness we have to dehumanize people we disagree with
  • How we expand the “in” group so we can be more generous and kind
  • Knowing what is expected of us and how that impacts behavior
  • Conditions that make contact more positive: 1) Equal Status 2) taking cues from leaders 3) common goals and seeing my fate as linked with other’s fate
  • Evidence that health outcomes and other outcomes are poorer when there is a larger disparity between people
  • Defining suffering and the difference between empathy and compassion
  • Studies on kindness and compassion out of Harvard – seeing an 18-month old observe an adult drop something and need help
  • What is result of entire lifetime of cues that child sees, even subtle ones and cultivating mindfulness
  • Pro-social vs. anti-social behavior and the impact of having just one positive relationship with an adult at school
  • The Greater Good Science Center method of open source as an end game for spread (Gugalev and Stern) and thinking though sustainability with open source model
  • Pyramid of Engagement for sustainability – professional products and experiences for those who want to go deeper and funneling (the both/and model)
  • Is human nature good or bad? The deeply rooted instincts we have both for care and to do bad things as well. But how do our environments elicit one or the other?
  • We become more self-interested when we feel scarcity and feel threatened or scared
  • We often think that the world has become more violent but the historical look shows that violence is actually significantly lower than centuries ago


Steven Pinker: The Blank Slate