Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why empathy is more powerful than being dominant.

It was for a long time the dominant view that power lies in overpowering others, in being aggressive and being dominant.

Research may suggest otherwise.

Primate psychology has observed behavior from bonobos in group and came to surprising conclusion.

Bonobos create social rules that they enforce and they reward bonobos that help each other.

These social rules are build on the principle of reciprocity.
"If you help me , I help you and If you cheat or hurt me I will punish you."

This was also observed in Vampire Bats.
The female vampire bats are the ones that suck the blood. They do that to feed their child.
They have a pouch on their throat that they fill with blood to give to the babies.

Baby vampire bats are fed by all the females the group.
The researchers took one feeding female and blew the blood pouch up with air.
After that, they released her back into the nest.

Now the other vampire bats believe that she has blood to give to the babies.
But when she doesn't give blood to the babies the mother of the baby thinks the other female doesn't want to give blood to her baby.

What happens when that frustrated female is now giving blood to the babies is that she won't give blood to the baby of the female that she believed to be cheating and holding back.

The reciprocity rule is in us humans a very strong present. It allowed for better survival of the ingroup. Without this reciprocity rule that allows for social rules we wouldn't have any society.

As social creatures, understanding this gives us a strong advantage.
But this reciprocity rule is only possible when there is something else in place.
Something even more powerful and fundamental to who we are as humans:

Mirror neurons.

Mirror neurons were discovered in a lab where they were studying monkeys.
One of the researchers took a break and put a peanut in his mouth.
On that moment the researcher heard a beep.
What was it ?

Just a few feet away from the researcher was a monkey that had electrodes that were linked to its motor neurons and on the other side on a computer.
The computer signalled that the neurons for action, putting something in its mouth, were activating,
but the monkey was just watching the researcher.

When the researcher ate another peanut the computer beeped again.

The motor neurons that were used to direct action in this monkey were activating by watching somebody else perform that action.

The researchers found out that a special type of neuron in the motor neurons was specialised in reproducing the same motor neuron activation as that of somebody observed.

This allowed for primates to recognise emotions in others.
What was first very important to spot if somebody ate something good or bad.
In this way the other monkey would not eat from the bad fruit and stay healthy.

It had another amazing benefit.
Now the monkeys can not only learn by trial and error but by observing others.
This accelerated learning in the group.

This is an essential component of creating a culture.

This is the basis of empathy and it made the survivability of a group much higher.
Groups that are more cohesive and cooperative survive longer.

How does that make you more powerful as an individual?

By acting according to that understanding you will understand people better.
Your communication will improve.
Your relationships will become stronger.

We need each other to accomplish the greatest things in life.
Relationships are one of the most powerful things there are.

Your power is not about you. It's about us. It's about the group.
Contributing to a group is what gives us power.

The power comes from the interactions we have.
It comes from the relations we build and maintain.

Power to the people!

Research links: