When I was training at the Austin Child Guidance Center last year, my supervisors shared with me an article from Science Daily called “Social Scientists Build Case for ‘Survival of the Kindest'”. Evolution theory poses that species survive and evolve through the process of natural selection. This has often been translated as the “survival of the fittest”: only the strongest, most well equipped individuals within a species survive, which makes a species evolve and adapt in better ways to its environment. Translated to human beings, conventional wisdom for a long time has been that “survival of the fittest” means that human beings have to be inherently selfish and competitive in order to survive. Based on a growing body of scientific evidence a group of scholars from the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center and Oregon State University is calling this idea into question.
Human beings actually thrive on care, connection, and cooperation with one another. Empathy is hard-wired into our brain. People who have greater capacity for empathy experience lower stress levels and better health. This has to do with the hormone oxytocin, which is related to social interaction, nurturing, bonding, and romantic love. Researchers from UC Berkeley also found that people with greater empathy and generosity enjoy higher status and more cooperation from their peers, while people who act more selfishly have lower status and are even shunned by peers. Parents who raise their children to be “emotionally literate”, and cultivate kindness, generosity, and gratitude in their children, have children who are happier and more resilient.
Thus, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that, as human beings, we function best when we are connected with others, and when we treat each other with kindness and compassion. This is not a new insight. In fact, kindness and compassion is the secret to happiness that is thousands of years old, and I recently wrote a more extensive page on this topic.