People Were Made To Be Kind, Science Says (Video)

Written by Emi Boscamp

If the fact that it's Friday wasn't enough good news for you, then you're in luck. Drum roll, please ... People aren't innately selfish, power-hungry monsters. In fact, we were built to be kind.

UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner set out to challenge the idea that we're all just concerned with our own well-being, and understand why we developed socially positive traits like empathy and compassion. Keltner's work uses technology that allows him to map the brain activity of people in his lab who are shown images of human suffering.

In an animated video (which you can find below), he illustrates his findings:

They trigger massively powerful reactions of compassion, and what we found in the brain is that a very old part of the brain, called the periaqueductal gray, which is common to mammals when they take care of things, lights up when you feel compassion. So that tells us compassion is really old in the nervous system, as Darwin speculated.

His research also shows that if you feel physical pain, a part of your brain lights up, and if someone sees you experiencing that pain, the same part of his or her brain lights up, which indicates that we are wired to feel each other's pain. Empathy is human nature.

So while we may just be looking out for ourselves 60% of the time, Keltner says, 40% of the time we're doing things for other people. 40% may not be a majority, but hey, at least it's something.

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