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Welcome, welcome, welcome to armchair expert. I'm Dan Rather's, I'm joined by Monster Mouse for Dan Rather's plural. Yeah. Today I'm Dan Rather. All yours. There's two of you. Well, experts on expert, so.


Yeah. Oh, you should be monstrous mice. My. Yeah, I like that.


Well, today we have Jamil's Zacki on and he is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab. Now using tools from psychology and neuroscience, he and his colleagues examined how empathy works and how people can learn to empathize more effectively. Now we talk about empathy all the time on here. We do.


And we or I have I shouldn't speak for you. A kind of Paul Bloom approach to empathy or understanding in this one delightfully so. Stands in opposition to that.


Yeah, we get into it. We're challenging ourselves.


Myself's is writing on these topics has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and has a new book called The War for Kindness.


So please enjoy Jamil Zaki. We are supported by Neum. You know how to chew you how to use chopsticks kinda and how to fold a slice of pizza so the cheese doesn't slide off and you get that perfect first bite. But do you really know how to eat? Neum says if you want to lose weight, it's not about one thing you ate today, but how you eat in general. Neum is based in psychology and it teaches you how to eat so you can accomplish your personal health goals and stick to them long term because you don't need rules to lose weight.


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There's no shame in asking for help.


He's not chance. Hey, what's up? I'm going to namedrop here to explain why we're late and let's Roberte did HRC.


Yeah, we were told we only had forty five minutes with her and we ended up having like an hour and 10 minutes with her. So then we took it. We shit the bed.


Oh man. You take every one of those minutes you can get f non-negotiable. So really quick, just FYI I got a sick kid at home so I've moved into what we call the San Francisco Home Office, a.k.a. used to be a closet. So hopefully, hopefully the noise is minimal. And then second, being a closet, it's really hot in here. So I apologize if I'm seeing.


Well, let's start over. Let's start with the headline.


Your closet is gorgeous. It's like. Thank you. Two different paint schemes. You have artwork hung. Yeah.


Wow, wow, wow, wow. What a great closet. Thank you. You know, I'm not going to lie. We put some thought into it as well. We went from one kid to two. We kind of said, well, we need a space around here. Now that we've been stuck at home for a year, we're obviously glad to have made this decision. So we redesigned the whole thing.


How old are your children? Five and three and a half. OK, we've got the same gap. We've got five and seven, but they're under two years. Yeah, I don't know where you're at in the process, but I will say it starts bearing fruit when they're about my kids ages where they're actually good friends and they party all day long together, which was the main goals.


Oh yeah. I've never like you know, I loved my kids the entire time they've existed. But, you know, I'm not a baby guy.


I'll share that. You know, the baby's so cute, but they're not great conversationalists. You know, they're kind of do the same things on their pants. They should. I know. I know. Come on. Terrible roommates. But I find I've been really blessed. I've always loved my kids, but I like them more every year. I don't know when that plateaus. I think sometime before thirteen it really starts to maybe drop off.


I've been warned that, yeah, it takes a nosedive in the teen years, but I'm optimistic now.


Jameel, where are you from? Originally, I'm from the suburbs of Boston, a town called Framingham. Really not an interesting place just to stop on the highway between Boston, New York, heavily Irish or what was kind of ethnography of the place?


Yeah, definitely some Irish population. You know, as a kid, there was this really big influx of immigrants from Brazil and from different parts of South America. And actually, my mom was a school psychologist, and so she's from Peru originally. So her big thing was sort of helping bilingual kids, the Spanish or Portuguese speaking acclimate. And so she became the head of bilingual psychology for my whole school system.


What about Dad? Because both your parents are immigrants, correct? Yeah.


Yeah, my dad's from Karachi in Pakistan. And so they both moved to the US when they were twenty five. Washington State University had this graduate scholarship program for students from the poorest countries on the planet.


And my mom got the scholarship from Peru and my dad did not get a scholarship because it was not as good a student as my mom, but he went there anyways.


And so they met, you know, came for these two massive cities, you know, Lima and Karachi, which are each like bigger than New York, I believe.


And wow, ended up in Pulman, this tiny town, and fell in love there.


What was the connective tissue? There's no shared religion. What was it? They were strangers in a strange land. Yeah, I think that's it.


A sense of discomfort, a sense of foreignness, the sense of of longing for familiarity, you know, and I guess if everyone else is at home except for you, you gravitate towards whoever else is trying to figure it all out. Yeah.


Having a very similar experience for maybe different reasons. But in growing up, how did they decide which cultural aspects they were going to pass on or how they prioritize, or was it a battle between them? I imagined my wife and I were both from even different states would be an endless thing about how they would pronounce things.


And yeah, it was a battle, but it wasn't a long lived battle because. So, you know, one thing about my family is that, you know, as my parents sort of got accustomed to the U.S., I think they realized pretty quickly how little they actually have in common, which as their only kid, I could tell you just like very little.


And so I actually, you know, pretty much since I can remember, they were in the process of splitting up. So they sort of they started pretty early and then, you know, they officially started getting divorced was eight, but it took them till I was 12 to finish it off. So it was like basically is a pretty distant relationship that they like watching someone die of a papercut wound over the course.


And did you speak either of their native languages, like did you end up being a translator for either of them or feeling like you were in the middle of the two of them?


Oh, yeah. I mean, and I think, you know, so many parents of divorce can probably relate to this, but you feel this kind of centrifugal force, like you're just being pulled in different directions and. I think that for many of us comes in lots of different flavors, and for me it came in a very cultural flavor, right? So sort of there is a battle between the different values and norms of Peruvian culture and Pakistani culture, and not for nothing.


I ended up tilting pretty much over to the Peruvian side. I speak Spanish, but I don't speak with you. I would visit Lima basically every year. I've been to Pakistan only once. And so I ended up, you know, because I was living with my mom, sort of ended up closer to that side of things.


Is it too much for me to go out on a limb and say that maybe even compounded by the gender nature of those two countries, your father being from Pakistan is probably far more patriarchal, if that's even possible than here, and maybe some traditions he would imagine you would take on as his son was at any source of turmoil.


Oh, yeah, my dad was a computer engineer, not because he was into computers strictly because his dad said, hey, I've heard computers will be a big deal, so why don't you do that? Right. Yeah. And I think that likewise, as you say, you know, my dad had some expectations for me around achievement and then around sort of particular professions, which is not to say that everyone from that culture would be that way. But he certainly was.


And I have to say, I owe him a lot because he did push me to explore my intellect, for instance. And we play chess all the time. And he loved doing math. Probably he would like take me to a fast food restaurant. We'd like do algebra together. He would really make it fun, you know. So he wasn't just being a pushy kind of dad. He liked to just explore trying to be smart together. But he definitely had a path for me that he envisioned.


And whenever there are deviations from that path, it wasn't always received with the most with the most warmth.


OK, perfect sentence for you to say for a Segway. Our first path deviation will be right now. Have you watched Queen's Gambit?


Of course, yes. Oh, I love it. Love it. Love. Oh, good. Incredible. So good.


I'm not that one person who has not. I know I've only heard of rave reviews across the board, but when you said yes, of course, I immediately thought and in fact, I'm putting everything in life through the prism of that show. Now, as I was watching this documentary about the eminent threat of the Russian troll factory and their cyber espionage and statecraft and just thinking, well, they historically are better chess players than us. So maybe they have some advantage in this space.


You know, I started, like, running it through that lens.


As the game goes, so goes life, right? Yeah.


OK, so this interesting childhood you had, do you think that was the fertile ground by which you end up becoming interested in psychology? Do you think you were looking for some answers of this complex relationship you were watching unfold? Oh, yeah.


I mean, you know, in psychology we've got this saying that research is me search basically to study the things that have meant a lot to us in our lives. And that's immensely true for me. I mean, my parents were so different from each other, it felt like they had different realities. And as a kid, a lot of my life, especially as an only child, was really navigating these two parallel universes and trying to make sense of them and then trying to connect them to each other, trying to figure out how to relate to my mother, who was so different from my father when the two only people in my life basically couldn't understand one another and say that my parents divorced was like an empathy Jim for me.


Right. It forced me to work out my ability to understand different perspectives. And even though it was a very difficult time, I'm so grateful for it. I mean, the one thing that was obvious was that these were two good and caring people. And so to understand that they could come from such different places, but both be motivated by love and loss and the same core experiences was one of the deepest things I think I ever learned.


Well, you know, it's interesting, too, is what often is the roadblock to my empathy or as I understand empathy is to do so might be to lose my position in this argument. Right. So I think you were at a really advantaged point of view, because for you to understand your mom or conversely, your father, it wouldn't be giving up ground and maybe some debate, whereas so often in relationships, you're almost in the back of your mind.


You know, you're nervous if you give it a minute to actually try to understand where they're coming from, you might have to come off your position a little bit.


This is one of the classic unforced errors that we make in our lives, right. Is that we imagine that we're in a debate often and therefore we lose the opportunity to find middle ground, to find common ground and common humanity as well. I mean, you see this in our personal relationships, in our politics, in our mental health. You know, when you view the world as a zero sum game and you think that anything you give to somebody else, you will lose, that becomes true.


Yeah. And when you instead see, you know, so if I listen to someone I disagree with, it's not the same as me agreeing with them. It's not the same as me. Betraying my values, understanding can be a deep path to actually changing someone else's mind, not just changing yours by arrogantly and condescendingly, often say to people like you could take my point of view for a walk for a minute.


It doesn't mean you're agreeing with me or conceding. I'm just asking you to, like, take it for a stroll for five seconds.


But do you ever find it hard to do that for other people?


Look, I'm a real scumbag piece of shit, but I'll say one of the things I'm good at, I think, is I think I'm in a good habit of really putting in the effort to understand when someone is emotionally responding to in any given situation. And I credit that to my mother, who I've given this example often. But this would happen all the time in my small town. Someone would be drunk driving and kill somebody. It'd be two young people.


The town hates the kid who was drunk driving. And my mom would always go, Oh, man, what are those parents feeling like right now? The parents of the kid who committed the crime, he was a little baby. They handed out cigars. Everyone celebrated. They were optimistic. That was just the way she almost as a hobby would try to figure out maybe what the serial killer was experiencing. And then, of course, I chose anthropology, which a big drive of that is cultural relativism, where you kind of just halting your judgment, your conclusion.


You're just putting a pause on that so you can make an attempt to understand what this custom, what service it provides, what's the utility of this thing before we label it good or bad or something like that. So, Monica, my good or bad at it, I think you're good at it.


I would say my dad is the same way. He's always like taking another perspective. And sometimes I wonder, like, do you have any real conviction?


Do you have an actual point of view? You have a platform.


Do you actually believe in anything or do you just believe in devil's advocating?


Basically, there's a fear there, a little bit that can come from people around you of like so but then what do you believe if you just believe everything is acceptable?


Well, it's like where's the center? Right. And if really taking someone else's perspective means living in their reality for a little while and you just switch realities over and over again and get a little bit confusing about which one you were in. I mean, that's actually know a look for free therapy here. But that was part of my own childhood, too, right? I mean, I was able to navigate to my mom and my dad's different worlds, but certainly there were times that I would feel like, well, who am I then?


What is my Archimedes point? What is the thing that I know is immovable for me? And sometimes I think, you know, we think of empathy as threatening to unmoored us or sort of make us lose the anchor that we have to reality.


Can I just add really quick? I just think, yeah, that's one way to interpret that. But another way to interpret it would be know what you end up coming to is a conclusion that none of these points of view are 90 percent correct, that unfortunately everything's incredibly complicated. Everything is on a spectrum. Everything is 60 this and 40 that. I don't think that's a bad place to come out. And I think that actually is the reality of life on this planet.


Yeah, I think that's right.


And, you know, in Psych one, when I teach freshmen, I talk about that dress.


You remember the dress that was blue and black, but some some lunatic thought it was white and gold and basically talk about how there are experiences that we have that just are concretely objective in our mind and simply are not objective if you look across people. Right. And that includes the things that we see, the things that we hear and also our opinions, like if somebody didn't like the Queen's Gambit, you'd be like, fuck off.


You know, this has no opinion worth having. But then, of course, it goes deeper as well. Right. So after the election, I saw there was a tweet that this person put up. There was sort of like, if you voted for Biden, I want you to reach out to a Trump supporter because they're experiencing disappointment right now, try to empathize with them. And the response to that tweet was immediate, forceful and totally negative. Right.


People said, no way. I'm not going to empathize with someone who voted for somebody who I think is just awful in these particular ways or threatening my rights in these in these other ways. And I'm sure people on both sides feel that way. Right. They believe that anyone who voted in a direction that's opposite to them is a hateful person. In fact, there's a bunch of research on this was called meta dehumanization. So basically, if I'm on one side of the political aisle and you ask me how do people on the other side feel about you, I say, oh, they hate me.


They think I'm barely a person. They would never have anything to do with me. In fact, we're not as hated by the other side as we think we are. But if we start with that assumption, if that becomes our reality and it's just we decide that that's objectively true, there's no room to move at all. Right. And so one of the things that I counsel my students is try to be less sure, try sometimes to realize that doubt is a powerful.


Starting point to finding truth, and I bet you could really enlighten us on the many different studies surrounding this, but once you get into a twofold thing of ingroup outgroup group, which is that that's going on. Right. Which we've evolved to really be good at delineating which group is which and which one we're in, coupled with identity. Right. We fight the hardest to protect our sense of who we are and how we're defining ourselves. And so if we're defining ourselves in opposition to this other group, it's so ripe for miscommunication and hatred and all these things.


And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think that people on the other side hate you, you won't budge an inch and you won't want to talk to them, let alone listen to them. And so eventually, again, a lot of the things that we imagine to be true become true over time because we act as though they are true. I mean, one of the things in the world of empathy and kindness science is that people basically have these creaky assumptions that go back to misinterpretations of Darwin, which is that people are naturally competitive and that competition is a pathway to success.


And if you believe that it becomes true, right, that type of cynical belief ends up seeping into the way that you interact with others. I mean, think about it. If you imagine that everyone's a swindler and a cheater and that they'll take advantage of you the first chance that they get, then you would never trust people. You wouldn't act in a way where you're sort of doing a favor, not expecting anything in return because you'd be a chump.


If 10 people do that, then guess what? They actually form an environment in which competition does rule and in which no one gets anything other than what they steal. Whereas if you start from a place of trust and believing that people can be prosocial and kind, that becomes true as well. That is so true.


And so my personal experience where I was certain everyone in the world was wolves and they were all out to get one another, and by hook or crook, you get ahead and you got to survive. And then I married Kristen, who is the opposite point of view. Both are true.


There are a bunch of beautiful, great people and there's a bunch of terrible monsters now. So you teach psychology at Stanford. And I just want to say that Monica and I are uni files. We've come up with this term. We fetishize, I guess, hard to get into schools and schools. And we've now had the great honor to interview many graduates of these schools. And so far, I'm dying. Tonight, I'm going to say Stanford had an edge we really enjoy.


There's some ethos there that seems to infect you all that we really like. What made you want to go to that school?


I mean, I've dreamed of teaching at Stanford since I knew that academia is a thing that you could do. And it's not because I was that familiar with it. I mean, I had never been to California before. I turned 30. I mean, I'd been there once before I interviewed out there. It's just because the tradition of psychology there is just an amazing one. I mean, forever people at Stanford have done what I guess you would call action science, which is it's not just research that's meant to explore the human mind just for the fun of it, which it is super fun.


I mean, I love it and it's great. But psychologists at Stanford really focus on what type of insights can turn into meaningful change quickly, right. To decrease disparities and opportunities across race or socioeconomic status to increase people's ability to cultivate mental health. Right. I mean, we're sort of oriented towards basic science. That hope that means it's going to sound grandiose, but that can make a positive change in the world. So that was magnetic to me forever.


Is this Stanford prison experiment a feather in your cap or a black mark on your resume? I don't know. That's got to be the study that you guys are most known for. Yeah, I suppose it is.


Yeah. And so it's interesting. So let me just say, there's a plaque directly below my office that commemorates the Stanford prison experiment. And I remember seeing it like in my first week of being there. And I remember thinking, do we really want a plaque for that like that?


But we learned so much from that. I think that was instrumental in us knowing human behavior.


Yeah, I was it was very telling. Can I ask the history of it, was all this known immediately or were there not waves of interpretation? So the first conclusion, right, was like, if you empower people with these roles, these identities of prison guard and inmate, you're going to get some behavior that normally those people would not have exhibited without those roles or identities. And then now it is understood that also the execution of the experiment themselves were also being infected with this notion because they were the guards of the guards.


Was that always known or was that a wave of interpretation?


That's a good way of putting it. I mean, so there's been a long history of that experiment that actually continued into this year, basically. So the original. Story, as you say, was that when you put someone in a social role, they'll act it out, right? I mean, we're all in this like goes back to Erving Goffman as well. Right. The sociologists who said basically that we're all playing a part in our lives. And if you tell me something about the part that I'm supposed to play, I'll embody it.


I won't just pretend at some point I'll pretend so hard that it will become true for me. And so the idea with Zimbardo is prison experiment was that when you put people in a position where they're prison guards and then they'll start acting in an authoritarian way. Now, I will say that there's been an update to this. Where I think this is what you're getting at is that there has been some doubts as to did people really go all in on that role so quickly?


Would that be universal? Would that translate? Would that replicate? And a lot of people think maybe not, because it turns out that maybe, as you said, the experimenters might have been egging them on a little bit. Right. And sometimes that's another thing we find in psychology that we have to be really careful about.


Yeah, the first thing that's alarming is like they're watching these prison guards humiliate people, put them through physical anguish. They're not letting them go to the bathroom. There's all these things right. And you're like marveling at the cruelty of it. Right. But then you've got to zoom out and go, well, here are the people that are in charge of the experiment, witnessing it and allowing it to continue. So they themselves are participating in the same level of dehumanizing the participants are.


Yeah, and you have to zooming out is a good term. Psychologists try to point you to the people in their study, but we should also think about what their role is in influencing those people. And I think oftentimes psychologists by accident, you know, they encourage a certain type of behavior and then they say, aha, they say that's how people behave. And it's like, well, that's how people behave when you tell them to behave that way.


Yeah, right. So we need to be cautious.


They're marveling that the participants won't stop this and yet they're in a position to stop it and they're not stopping it. It's just wonderfully ironic. No. Yeah, that tasty. OK, so why specifically were you drawn to the topic of empathy? And then I think it would be really helpful to define empathy, because I know we often work off this work of Paul Bloom, who I'm sure you know extensively. Are you friendly with him or are you at odds with him?


Are you in lock step on empathy or.


Oh, Paul is the best frenemy a guy could have. He's an awesome dude.


We're good friends. And, you know, I think one of the great things about academia, science, you're just thinking is that sometimes having a really smart person disagree with you will push your thinking more than anything, you know.


Yeah, exactly. Bastard next to me.


I absolutely disagree with Paul and I'm totally grateful to him for articulating his perspective so well that it helped me evolve my own thinking.


Oh, great. Because I think I have a very thin slice understanding of Paul's definition of empathy, which is again, and correct me if I'm mischaracterizing it, but you know that empathy is the ability to imagine what the person's going through. And he makes a real point that empathy is not the same as sympathy. It's not the same as taking on their emotions. And the point that he makes is if one witness is a swimmer that's drowning, one need not get themselves into a crazed state of drowning to be effective and help them.


And similarly, surgeon, it would not be useful for the surgeon to imagine their lungs are about to be transplanted. That's not a good state of mind for a surgeon to be. And so he believes there is time and place for empathy. And so maybe do you guys start with different definitions of empathy?


Yeah, we do a little bit. So I think you're on to something here. So the way that most research psychologists think of empathy is as an umbrella term that captures multiple ways we respond to somebody else. So like, imagine that you're having lunch with the friend that what we could do, that type of thing. And and your friend gets a phone call and you don't know who's on the other side of the line or what they're saying. But it's not good because your friend begins to cry, right?


Well, as you see your friend break down, a few things might happen in you. Right. You might feel bad yourself vicariously taking on his feelings, which we would call emotional empathy. OK, you probably would also try to figure out what he's feeling and why, which we would call cognitive empathy is sometimes called theory of mind. And then at least if you're a decent friend, you probably care about what your pal is going through and want him to feel better, which we'd call empathic concern or compassion.


So it's sharing what someone feels, thinking about what they feel, and then a motivation maybe to change how they feel in those three different pieces fit together in all sorts of different ways. They've split apart in some ways. And to your point, they can be useful at different times. Sharing someone's emotion might motivate me to like, donate to a charity, for instance, but it's not useful all the time. Like you said, docketed for a surgeon.


Not good. A therapist, I don't if I'm talking to my therapist, I don't want him crying, being like God, your life really does suck, right? Yeah, I divorce or do the lovers.


So I think a big part of empathy is understanding. It's different pieces so that we can work with it. Precisely right. You want a map of your own mind so that you can navigate to different places when you need to. And so I think a lot of the times, if people believe that empathy means I need to cry when you cry, they might avoid it because, you know, they want to freak out. But it doesn't have to mean that you can actually use empathy in different ways.


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So I think I have a big barrier up between myself and emotional empathy, yet I think I have fastpass to cognitive empathy, like I think I'm good at understanding that. And then I'm very fearful of having to take on someone else's emotions, which is natural.


I mean, I think that that's probably the oldest part of empathy, like it's the one that is exhibited by the most other animals, for instance. So like, you know, all sorts of animals from types of birds to rodents to I mean, definitely monkeys and primates have this sort of resonance, you know, so like if you just like a sad experiment. But if you give one mouse electric shocks and then either have another mouse sort of that's sitting in a different cage just hanging out or also receiving shocks, a mouse will squeal more if they're also seeing another mouse receive shocks, indicating that they're not just feeling their own pain.


They're like resonating with the pain of another mouse. It's a really ancient form of empathy, but it's definitely a tough one to feel.


And when you graph that with social animals versus solitary animals, do you see that increased social animals? I guess what I'm asking is, is the circuitry to allow us to live in multimember groups.


I think it's part of it. So there is evidence, for instance, that the experience of resonance in animals tracks their willingness to help stranger animals. So, for instance, rats experienced emotional empathy. I call it resonance because it's a little bit hard to say that a rat experiences empathy because you can't really ask it. But, you know, they show signs that they suffer when other rats suffer and that tracks their willingness to give up chocolate to help another rat get out of a cage.


I do think, though, when you look at different social animals, it's like the work of Robin Dunbar. I'm thinking about this great anthropologist who studied sort of how much of each species brain is taken up by the frontal lobe. Right. Which is sort of the newest part of the brain and responsible for complex cognitive function, the more frontal lobe that a species has, the greater group size it lives in. Right. So if you look at even different monkeys and apes, the larger frontal lobe they have, the more other monkeys or apes that species hangs out with.


To me, I think that doesn't necessarily track an increase. Like I'm just turning up my emotional empathy across species from five to 10 to 11. Instead, I think that it's a development across species in cognitive empathy. There's a lot more ability to understand other animals perspectives as you get sort of closer to humans evolutionarily.


This will be a cynical point of view, but I tend to lean that way, as I've understood that as you have multimember groups or large size groups ranking in status become that much more complex. So your survival relies on a your ability to recognize perfectly each member of that group, which takes a ton of the frontal lobe. Right. So I think one of the theories in primate evolution is there's like a fruit theory. And then there's also this social theory, which is we have to be so good at memorizing faces and reading facial expressions so that we don't end up on the wrong side of someone who outranks us for our own survival.


Now, is that too cynical of a thing or is that disregarded or we still think that's part of it?


Yeah, I mean, you're talking basically about a Machiavellian theory of intelligence, right? That the reason we understand each other is to play a long game of chess together. Right. To try to to try to get position and and keep position and as you said, not get on the wrong side of someone who outranks us. There's another view of it that goes back to people like Peter Kropotkin, which is that we actually didn't evolve to compete. We evolved to work together to outlast the environment.


That really the thing that we're all trying to beat is things like, you know, the cold or predators from other species or scarcity, starvation, and that in order to do that, we need to coordinate. So we need to understand other people's expressions. We need to understand where other people's realities and that's how we can beat them. But so we can figure out who we can work together with, which would be like more coalitional thinking.


That makes a ton of sense, right. Because you're not actually competing against one another within your group, but basically your group is competing against all other groups. So if you work as a very cohesive group, then you're going to outpace these other ones that are just trying to fuck one another to get the piece of fruit and then they all die. Right. So there is some evolutionary advantage to it as well. Exactly.


Like if you're in a cynical I mean, again, not to in the Dark Shepherd population. Yeah.


If you're in a cynical population of animals that are basically infighting all the time, you have to compete against another group of animals that might be working together more effectively. And, you know, I know that you've talked with Uvalde. You know, I mean, I think his argument is that basically sapiens were really effective at wiping out other species. One part of that is probably our vast ability to collaborate and to work together to have a common thread. But, you know, one really interesting.


Thing is that during times of great hardship, that coalitional side of us can be turned up. I mean, so can the competitive one. But there is this great study I heard about recently where there was a group of I believe it was macaque monkeys that live on this island that was affected by a massive hurricane. And researchers are looking at how much they engaged in basically grooming each other, which is basically like Xanax.


Yeah, yeah. It's the most common act of monkey kindness is like basically picking gnats off each other's back or whatever. So they mapped the social networks of these monkeys and it turned out that they had these little kind of clicks before the storm and then the storm hit and like fucked up their entire environment and, you know, just made everything really a lot more difficult. And if you looked at the network afterwards, it looked like a giant crystal, like basically all these monkeys started grooming each other a lot more.


They cooperated a lot more. Why? Well, because they had to because the environment had gotten really hard.


Well, I have that real life experience and it was the most surreal. I'll never forget it. It was the evening after the morning of 9/11 and people had lit candles all around L.A. and I remember going to 7-Eleven. And now the normal experience at 7-Eleven is like, you elbow the person out of the way to get to the door and then you get your shit as quick as humanly possible to get in line before them. And then you're, you know, is very competitive.


And I just remember being in there incensing like, you know, someone opened the door and everyone was kind of patient and everyone was allowing another person to go ahead. And it was just it was a visceral shift. And it was as if everyone reminded us like, oh, yeah, you guys are all in this together. There's this threat of terrorism. And now I'm reminded that we're on the same team.


Exactly. Yeah. I mean, one of my favorite books to come back to this year has been A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit. It's a book about basically the various disasters that people have lived through in the last century. So earthquakes here in San Francisco in 1986 and 1989, the bombing of London in World War two, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina. And in all these cases, there's a myth about how people act when a disaster strikes, which is that we panic.


It sounds out for themselves. Yeah, but if you look at the historical record, just to your point and to your experience, after those disasters, people come together, they find ways to help and hold each other, whether it's a stranger or a family member. It's like when we're all under a common stress together, we realize the kind of veil of individualism that we have in self-sufficiency is ripped away and we realize how desperately we need each other and how much we want to be there for each other.


Well, that is what has been so disheartening about covid, to be honest. And what scares me about what potentially the long term effects of these polarizing Internet rivers were all cascading down because this should have been that moment, in fact, when it was happening and they were initializing quarantine, I remember thinking, oh, wow, this is going to be like 9/11. Then I was just really disheartened and I was fearful that this is some kind of terrible albatross that this thing ended up dividing us even worse.


I know. I know. I had that same trajectory. You know, I feel like early in the pandemic there was this evidence of people coming together in a really dramatic way. There were all these mutual aid groups. You could find Google spreadsheets all over the world where people basically were volunteering to help their more vulnerable neighbors, whether they were older or immunocompromised. Even there was research that came out where people were more willing to socially distance, for instance, if they thought of it as a way of helping other people as opposed to a way to help themselves.


There's still evidence for that. I mean, there's some research that just came out that found that basically people's level of empathy for more vulnerable individuals tracked their willingness to wear masks and stay home to engage in all these sort of public health positive behaviors. I think, you know, we're divided. And I think, as you said, this sort of fracturing of our media ecosystem has made it so hard. I feel like I feel like we're all sort of like children of divorce right now, where they're just these alternate realities that just seem unbridgeable sometimes.


And that makes yeah, I think we have a natural capacity for empathy and togetherness, but there are certainly forces that are pulling us just harshly in the opposite direction apart instead of together.


OK, so it sounds like if I could sum up this point of view that you are a proponent of kind of a group evolution and not the skewing of Darwinism or the weaponization of Darwinism or selective interpretation of Darwinism, that you think it's more complex than that. And so your book, The War for Kindness, Building Empathy in a Fractured World, tell us from your point of view the value of empathy, how we use it and what. The results of that can be, yeah, it's a super easy case to make, so, I mean, I think we consider empathy a gift to others, right?


It's a vast source of kindness, which are actions designed to help somebody else. And that's true. Right. So when we empathize with others, we tend to help them. But I think one piece that's often lost here is how much empathy also helps the people who feel it. So I think a deep need that we all have is to be part of something greater than ourselves. You know, loneliness is a risk factor for mortality up there with smoking 10 to 15 cigarettes a day.


And I think when we experience empathy, we also realize our interconnectedness. We're part of that. And as a result, people who experience lots of empathy tend to be happier, mentally and physically healthier. And even older adults who engage in volunteering and feel a connection to others while doing so have greater longevity. So the case for empathy is easy, even in a harsh world. The reason that I wrote the book is because not only is empathy this vastly helpful force in our life, it's also eroding.


It's harder to feel now than before. And I saw a study in probably 2011 that had looked at people's self reported empathy in the U.S. from 1979 to 2009. Hundreds of thousands of people reporting on how much empathy they feel. And it turned out that the average American in 2009 was less empathic than 75 percent of people just 30 years earlier and started to have this feeling as a scientist, a lot of my work documents the benefits of empathy for everybody involved.


But then as a person and then, you know, as a dad, too, I was seeing a world that seemed like it was losing this resource. It felt like a climate scientist studying the polar ice in a way. Right. I'm like documenting the importance of something just as it disappeared all around me. And I wanted to sort of help people focus on why this is so important, why we're losing it and how we might be able to get it back.


Yeah, what are the driving forces behind that decline? Is that known or. It's just theorized?


I mean, you know, history is not an experiment, so you can't run it a bunch of times and tinker with different variables. So as you know, correlation is not causation. But, you know, I will say that that trend in erosion and empathy coincided with, well, a greater degree of people living alone. Right. So it's just isolation in general. I mean, 18 to 34 year olds are 10 times more likely to live alone in the U.S. than they were a hundred years ago.


Oh, so there this loss of just the rhythms of togetherness that we have in our life, there is the vast polarization and sort of just fracturing of our media life as we've been talking about. And then there's also, I think, a major increase in stress. There's this arms race for achievement and activity. And, you know, it seems to me when I think about younger generations that they're just like drowning in to do lists and in a sense of maybe they're not doing enough and maybe inadequacy and that type of focus on the self.


And I don't mean narcissism, I mean a focus on the self that comes from this constant social comparison maybe that we get on social media or elsewhere then I think also drives us inward. So I see a bunch of cultural forces, again, not to say that any of these have been established as causes for a loss of empathy, but I see a bunch of things that make sense together with a loss of empathy.


There is also physiological components to in-person interactions, right where you might even what we're doing right now, like I feel connected to you, but different things would be happening if you were on this couch. And we mostly have done this show with people on that couch. And it is an exhilarating like these can be fun and rewarding, but in person they can be a shared moment in time where we both walk away. And we had a similar biological response to the experience.


It's true. But if you don't mind, let me push back a little bit on that, because I think I think it's definitely true that there's you know, I miss being three dimensional, too. I wish I was on that couch right now would be more fun. It would be more fulfilling. And, yes, there would be potentially more of a physiological bond between us. Right. If you looked at our heart rates, they might be more in sync if we were together than if we're over zoom right now.


But one of the really powerful things about the human mind and about human empathy is that it combines these ancient emotional forces with our unique and vast capacity for imagination. So oftentimes, like I can have a strong physiological response to a scene in a novel. So what is that?


I'm having a physical there's not a picture of a person. There is not a voice is text on a page that I'm interpreting into an imagined person who's never existed. And yet I can be bawling because of, you know, because of their story. And so I think that we oftentimes underestimate how much we can turn up and can. Our empathy and push it beyond the bounds that I think we're used to pushing it. Well, you did a really neat demonstration of one of your YouTube videos where you talk about this overlap in psychology we can experience and how in this YouTube clip, you then show someone walking on a tightrope across the Grand Canyon.


And somehow our psychology joins that person's psychology. And despite being on terra firma, we're terrified, right. Or our palms sweat. That happens to me all the time, these climbing trees. So I'm like, I was dehydrated out of my pain.


Yeah. I mean, that's the thing. We are able to time travel and travel in space without going anywhere, right?


I mean, it's just it's one of our fundamental human capacities. I think Kurt Vonnegut used to write about this in Slaughterhouse five is getting unstuck, right. That you can get unstuck in time. I mean, he was, of course, writing about literal time travel. But I think we can all get unstuck from where we are from when we are and from our perspective as well. And I think, you know, empathy is one flavor of really our ability to mentally travel, to be where we're not and even to be who we're not.


In the case of that tightrope walker, I'm going to give an example from my 12 step program that is a much more selfish version of this, but the practice is the same. And then I believe the results are the same. So we are encouraged, in fact, required to do service to help other alcoholics who suffer. And the way it was explained to me, I'm not a very altruistic person by nature. I aspire to be it. I have a code of ethics I'm trying to live up to, but it does not come naturally to me or I don't think of it.


But it was explained to me that the source of our suffering is thinking about ourselves, and this is definitely the case for me. So the more time DACs has to think about what DACs needs, Decs deserves that it should be doing, the more miserable I get. And then in through this act of service, I am forced to join that person in their concerns and in their struggles. And if nothing else, it's freedom from my own juggernaut, head of obsessing about myself.


And really, the more freedom and vacation I have away from that, the happier I am. That's the result of it. So even though it's very selfishly motivated, the result is someone else benefits from your service and then you to benefit from the vacation.


It's such a powerful example. And if you don't mind, let me pull out two pieces of that. One is that, like you said, happiness and well-being are not zero sum. And in fact, when we do for others, we often end up benefiting ourselves more than if we had been in our own head, which is oftentimes the least hospitable place we can be.


Right. It's a minefield for me.


Yeah, but, you know, the other part of this is something that you describe that I also experience and that a lot of people do, which is even though being of service to others is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, we just often don't do it. We don't want to do it. It's like the kindness equivalent of going running or something like I run a lot. I've never fucking want to go running, but I'm always glad when I did brushing your teeth, no one's in the mood to brush their teeth.


And yet, you know, I think that when people believe that, oh, being kind to someone else will drain me, they don't do it. And as a result, they've deprived themselves of one of the quickest routes to health and happiness. It's an unforced error in our mental lives. Again, you know, another way that we trip over our own feet because we have these stories that we tell ourselves, which is that the best thing for me to do is just hang out and eat ice cream and think about my problems.


You know, I don't have the bandwidth to help somebody else. I think especially countries like the US really focuses on differentiating ourself from everybody else. Right. And what we pursue, who we want to be, what we want to do is all about just me. And in fact, bonus points. If what you are talking about is different than what anybody else cares about or wants, I think it's really killing us in a lot of ways. I mean, in the 1980s, there was this large survey where people were asked, you know, how many folks could you talk about?


You know, with respect to things that really matter to you, the topics in your life that mean the most and the average responses like two and a half. And I think the most common responses there are two people that I can talk with and then they ask those questions again. 20 years later, in the early 2000s, I think the average had fallen to one or something like they don't quote me on the numbers, but the average had fallen a lot.


But the scariest part was that the most common response, about twenty five percent of people, the answer was zero. I think it was not a person in their life who they could talk with.


I hope they journal. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which is not for nothing is like talking to somebody in certain ways, but I just feel as though we've talked ourselves as a culture into a place of increased loneliness, increased stress and increased division. And it saddens me because of what we've lost in our losing. And I see the shrapnel of that all over us all the time. But it's also sad because I really, honestly believe it doesn't have to be that way, you know, and a lot of my work is about why it doesn't have to be that way.


Yeah. So if someone were to read the word for kindness and they decided, you know what, this goal of being empathic is one that I now agree should be pursued, how does someone put that into action? Like how does someone start making strides towards being empathetic?


There's so many different steps that you can pursue and they're not mutually exclusive. The first, I would say, is to be compassionate to ourselves. It's incredibly difficult sometimes to make room for ourselves in a deep way. I mean, as you said, we want to indulge ourselves. We want to eat ice cream and watch Netflix. Self compassion is an acknowledgement of our suffering and a treatment of our suffering with love. And that's not an easy thing to do.


And I think oftentimes if we can't connect with ourselves very well, it's going to be very difficult for us to expand that sense of connection to anybody else. So that's a starting point.


Well, how often have you, like, had a friend who's come to you with a problem, some failing in their life, and you can so easily look at them and just say, yeah, bud, you're a human. And we shit the bed all the time and it's OK. And you'll just march forward and while doing it, being reminded of the time you did it and then your conclusion was, you're the worst person that's ever lived. You're unforgivable.


I constantly like one of my goals is to have even half the compassion for myself that I have for other people. It's so hard. It's so hard.


So I teach a seminar at Stanford called Becoming Kinder. That's sort of like around the science of kindness, but also has these exercises that students do each week, these kind of challenges. And the very first one is, to your point, it's called reversing the golden rule. Right. So the golden rule treat other people like you'd like to be treated. But oftentimes we treat other people better than we treat ourselves, just like you're talking about tax. Right.


So I look at your mistakes and I say, oh, that's anyone would do that. I look at my mistake. That's the same one. I say, oh, I'm a total shithead. But I think underneath that is surprisingly, I'm not going to call it arrogance, but it's a sense that we expect more of ourselves than of anybody else, which actually is not very fair to other people. Right. I mean, other people are just as good as us.


And so they're not as good as Monica. I've met a lot of people, I take it.


So I think that's the starting point, is to realize that, hey, you know, my failures are human, just like your failures are human. And in fact, that one of the things that joins all people is that we suffer in one way or another. Right. And that self compassion is a bridge to having compassion for other people. That's that would be step one.


I guess step two would be any number of different things that you can do to, again, like kind of go to your own empathy gym to work out.


Yeah, give me another kindness exercise. Like, what's one of the exercises you give your students? Like, what would be the second exercise? I'm curious.


Yeah, there's a lot of contemplative exercises like Metta or lovingkindness meditation that are in essence, just focus your goodwill on people that you start with, people that you close with. You can move to strangers. You can focus it on people who you're having a difficult time with. We're all living beings. And this is dramatic research that came out of Germany a few years ago where they had people practice this type of loving kindness, meditation every day for a whole set of months in the scanned their brains before and after they did this practice.


These are structural scans. So they're looking at the thickness of the tissue in different parts of your brain. And they found a this type of practice every day actually improve people's ability to tell what others were feeling. It increased their tendency to help others. And it also helped them, by the way, regulate their own feelings and sort of protect their own mental health. And those changes tracked with increases in thickness in parts of the brain that are associated with empathy.


Well, if you're in the practice of wishing well on to other people, you'll start believing others are wishing well on to you.


Maybe I love that. Yeah. I mean, I think, again, oftentimes we're so cynical about the world and maybe that comes from being cynical about ourselves. You know, if we don't believe in ourselves, if we don't believe that we can have honest goodwill, that we can really be motivated by empathy and kindness, why would we ever believe that others would be right?


Yeah, you'd have to say that person just so much better than me as a person. You're going to say whatever your limits as a person are to everyone else and giving the best estimation possible, like, well, here's what I know I'm capable of. Yeah, I agree.


Either they're better than me or they're a naive chump who I'm going to run over. Another tool in the empathy tool kit is actually storytelling, whether it's immersion in novels or plays. Acting is a really powerful sort of performance enhancing drug for empathy, it turns out. Right. You embody other lives. You enter other mines in various ways. So any. Engagement with narrative art can be a really powerful road to empathy for ourselves and for others, and there is these fascinating studies where they basically it's like a clinical trial, except instead of a drug, you prescribe someone a novel or, you know, you prescribe them a film.


And it turns out that they're these little boosts in empathy, especially when we engage with art whose protagonists are different from ourselves, you know. So if a white American reads a novel where the protagonist is a Muslim American, their Islamophobia will decrease a little bit. And, you know, we have yet to figure out the very long term effects of this. We don't know. I mean, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that reading one novel will decrease your prejudice for the duration of your life.


But I think that, you know, generally exploring other people's minds through art is a really powerful way to build empathy.


Well, I know a pivotal moment in my life was reading behind the Tortilla Curtain. I think it was called it was mandated in some class I was taking in college. And, you know, it tells the story of what it's like to enter this country and live in a ravine in L.A. and the whole experience and the threats and how precarious it is. And I mean, it just certainly changed how I looked at that as I drove by because I had seen it a million times and it just put a story to it.


And I was like, oh, this is a very hard experience these people are going through.


Yeah, I think any deliberate practice of trying to basically experience things from another perspective, that's the reps that you need when it comes to empathy. And that can come in a lot of different ways. Like in my lab, we've tried virtual reality to do this. We created a virtual reality simulation where people could, you know, in the Bay Area, there's a lot of people who are unhappy. Homelessness problem is increasing a lot every year. And this fundamental attribution error, you see someone who's homeless and maybe your first judgment is, well, they've made poor choices or it's about them and who they are, which first of all, you know, it's not clear to me at all that making poor choices means that you shouldn't have a place to live.


But anyways, you know, we go to that place in our mind. And so we created this simulation where instead you could go through the different steps of what it might be like to become homeless. It's like in one scene you've lost your job, been evicted from your apartment, and you're trying to sell your furniture. It's like make rent for the next month. And then in another scene, you're in your car, which then gets impounded. Then in a third scene, you're sort of trying to take shelter in a local bus line.


It's a very embodied, you know, to your point, it's a very physiologically immersive experience. And we found that this 15 minute simulation, even a month later, decreased people's tendency to dehumanize homeless individuals. So I think any time that you can deliberately try to put yourself in other people's places, but not just do it once, I think an important thing about practicing empathy is that it is a practice. You know, I think a lot of the times we don't realize we know that if we want to stay in shape, we need to exercise, you know, a bunch of times.


You can't just do it once. But we don't think about that when it comes to, like, happiness, right? We don't realize that our happiness, too, is something that we need to practice. And in fact, big things like winning the lottery will make you happy for a while. But the things that will make you sustainably happy are like being kind to people over and over again or sleeping well or whatever. And I think the same goes for empathy.


It's not about, you know, going on a mission trip to do a service for two weeks. I mean, I'm sure that's a great thing for you, empathy. But it's really about those little moments that we can find in every day where we can stop ourselves and pause in a situation like maybe I see a person who is homeless like you saying. I think, oh, this is an inconvenience for me. Can you take that moment regularly, stop yourself and try to see that situation differently from a different perspective.


Stay tuned for more armchair expert, if you dare.


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What you just said, I think, is so true, I think people and I guess maybe some of it's a product of advertising and living in a capitalist society, which is I think most people believe the natural resting state for an animal is happiness. And that lack of happiness is proof that something bad happen as opposed to know you've got to generate happiness, like you have to generate muscle. Our resting state isn't to be ripped.


Yeah, it's true. Yeah, it's true. We atrophy, trust me, during quarantine. And I've experienced that directly.


Oh, so what are the benefits like? Businesses, professional environments. And there's got to have been different experiments run on organizations to see what being empathetic results in is. Their data on what happens. We're both friends with Adam. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. And this is kind of a lot what he works with is like this is beneficial to you. You are incentivized for many reasons to live this way. Yeah.


I mean, one of my favorite studies from Adam that I cite all the time is with volunteers who are calling alumni of a university to try to support a charity fund or a charity that would then provide scholarships to people who need them. And a lot of these volunteers had never talked with somebody who had benefited from the scholarship program. They'd never had a personal connection where they were able to empathize with the people they were helping. Yeah. And so Adam created that opportunity, had them just have these five minute phone calls with someone who had gotten a scholarship.


And just that personal connection was this motivating force that got these callers to work way harder. So they spent more than twice as many hours placing calls. They ended up making more than three times as much money for the charity than if they hadn't had that one conversation. I think in the work world, we often, again, we focus people on their own outcomes, their individual performance. And even like sometimes we say we'll give bonuses to only this percentage of people and we'll fire the bottom 20 percent or whatever.


So we indirect ways pit people against each other and that can feel like, you know, the way to motivate and drive people. But it turns out it's almost the exact opposite, right? If you create situations like that, people will work really hard for themselves, but the culture will fall apart, collaborations will fall apart, and the organization will end up doing much worse because people won't be sharing information. They won't be helping each other end up in a very inefficient and unhealthy place.


It is really easy. It turns out to pivot a culture towards one of collaboration and kindness. And empathy is one of the keys to that. Right. So one thing that, you know, I work with organizations as well. Sometimes one of the easiest things to do is just to choose as a leader what you make loud in your culture. I think people are conformists, right? We do what other people around us do. And oftentimes the loudest voice in a culture is not the kind, as you think about like bullies or, you know, people on social media spouting off or in a workplace.


You have one really cynical person who just poisons the well for everybody else. And so if leaders decide instead that they want to elevate and highlight and celebrate people who don't just go out for themselves, but also show up for others, that very quickly goes into the DNA of the organization. Other people start to go along with that. It's not just true in workplaces either. It's true in families, schools. I've worked with some police departments where they're trying to do this as well.


So any culture, I think, can be reformed towards a place of empathy, but it takes leaders really being intentional about building it.


When is it pathological? Because I feel like I've witnessed it veer towards pathological. Oh, yeah.


I mean, in the book I write about my older daughter. Um, she just turned five. And when she was born, I mean, it was definitely like tied for the best day of my wife in my life with the birth of our other daughter. There's also definitely like the worst day of our life because she was had a very difficult birth. She was, you know, really struggled to live. Turns out she had a stroke when she was born.


Oh, my goodness. Yeah, it was really it was really tough. I mean, it turns out if you're going to have a stroke, have it on the first day of your life, because the brain is this incredible organ that just grows and adapts and changes. And now she's like fully thriving and healthy, which we're so blessed for. But, you know, she spent a lot of her early life in this Mănescu at UCSF. And it was the hardest time of my life.


And then we thought a lot about the doctors and nurses and social workers who were taking care of her and us. And at first we were just so worried about ourselves that we couldn't think about them. But then I started to notice them. It's like, how do you all do this? You're like drinking from this fire hose of human misery, the like, the hardest time of everybody's life. And then you have to go home to your own family and come back and do it all over again.


So I ended up for the book shadowing that unit and sort of following these nurses and physicians for. And that's where it becomes pathological when you are drowning in other people's suffering, certain types of empathy can burn you out, make you really lose yourself, you know. So I think that one point here is that if we go back to different types of empathy, that emotional empathy, that taking on of other people's pain can really become unsustainable if you're a health care worker or these days if you're anybody, because we're all inundated with suffering on social media and elsewhere all the time we're hearing these horrible stories.


I think one thing that I encourage people to do to get out of that pathological, empathic state is to remember that to care for people doesn't have to mean feeling everything that they do, because if we try to do that, we will burn out, I mean, in seconds.


Well, I would also imagine there's an overlap there with conventional codependents in an alien way, which is the relief you experience from your own problems and worries because you live with a dumpster fire. So all of your attention is on them and you really get to not look at yourself at all. I think that could also be cyclical trap people fall into is like I'm so concerned with all these people. Well, guess what? That's also freedom from not having to look at your own shit.


Yeah. Or I mean, you know, to another form of relationship in which empathy could be pathological is an abusive one. Right. I mean, if I keep on making excuses and taking the perspective of someone who's actively harming me, I might not do what I need to do in exiting the relationship. So I think empathy can be a beautiful thing. It's something that I think we need more of. But, you know, one thing that I often tell people is, you know, when I tell you that you can grow your empathy, that doesn't mean that you need to set it to maximum and leave it there all the time.


Part of it is understanding that if empathy is a volume knob, I'm not telling you where to set it. I'm just wanting you to know that you are the person setting it right. I don't want people to feel like it's their job to empathize constantly and as much as possible, but rather to just be empowered to understand that they can point their empathy to it and use it in ways that matches up with what they want out of life and who they want to be.


Well, one juicy, counterintuitive fact, right, is that in general, sociopaths are incredibly empathetic, right. When it comes to cognitive empathy. Yes.


So they are able to understand what other people feel. And in fact, because they're unburdened by, like, caring what other people feel, they're able to use that information to just get whatever they want to manipulate people, basically.


And I found this interesting in watching your YouTube is that people on the spectrum of autism, I guess I had a generic thought that what they did lack was empathy, the ability to read other people's emotions and then respond to them accurately. But it's more complicated than that, right?


Yeah. So autism is almost in a way it can be thought of as a mirror, inverses, something like psychopathy or sociopathy, because people with autism often struggle to understand what other people feel with that cognitive part of empathy, but they don't really struggle. I mean, they share other people's emotions, even at the level of the brain or the so-called mirror neurons system. They share other people's feelings and they certainly express concern for what other people are going through.


So sometimes, you know, there's all these programs, research as well, designed to help people with autism be better readers of others. And some of those programs are really cool and interesting. I always tell people, you know, it should also be on us, the folks who are around someone with autism, to be easier to read when we can write. I mean, sometimes we depend on others to get us. We imagine that we're more visible and that what we feel is more obvious to others than it really is.


I mean, this is the source of approximately five billion marital disputes, right. Is that I think you can tell how I feel and you can't. And so, you know, a lot of my work is around helping people empathize with each other, but we can also become easier to empathize with if we are transparent, if we're candid, if we're vulnerable. Right. If we're able to open up and tell people what we're going through, that's often, in fact, the hardest thing to do and can open up other people to the ability to empathize.


And it's actually, you know, our vulnerability can be a gift to somebody else because it turns out, as we've been talking about, when we help others, we tap into meaning, we tap into a greater sense of purpose, we become happier. So if we give people a chance to help us, we're giving them a chance to do something that will help them to. Well, that's hard.


That is hard. Would you say you're good or bad at accepting help?


Good, good. OK, all right.


This just in Monika's good.


OK, so I have no I have no reservation about immediately if I don't know how to do something asking someone who does, I'd rather die.


I don't know how to do something or you. Then how will you learn? I'll do it wrong three thousand times until I finally figure out how to do it right.


What my favorite studies that came out in the past few years, probably just because of the title, was called The Beautiful Mass Effect. And the idea was that oftentimes we see our own vulnerability as a sign of weakness, but we see other people's vulnerability as a sign that they like us. Right. So I think, well, gosh, if I ask Monica for help with something, she's just going to realize how inept I am at everything. But if she asks me for something, I say, oh, wow, she trusts me enough.


Yeah. Yeah. And the same goes for being emotionally open. Right? I mean, I might think, gosh, if I tell Dad about this problem I'm going through, he'll think I'm oversharing. He'll be like, why is this weirdo talking about his parents over and over again? Right.


Oh, no, all my pants. This is what gets me aroused. Yeah. Let's get into it.


But right. So what they found in the study was that, in fact, people believe that they'll be judged if they open up to somebody else, but in fact, they don't judge other people who open up to them. If anything, that's one of the quickest ways to befriend someone. I remember when I got to Stanford, I was trying to make friends and people just seem so happy. I think it's like a California thing. I don't know.


Is it East Coast? I'm used to complaining all the time. Oh, my God. That's the worst. The water that I swim in and people just seem so happy. And I was like, gosh, I don't want to complain. And then a couple of new faculty members came over from the East Coast and we started whining together. And it was like we became friends so quickly. Sometimes sharing what we're going through is actually the perfect way to connect.


Oh, boy, I got to strive. This is kind of like when we. Well, I don't want to bring it up because I didn't do good at it, which was like eat less meat, you know. Oh yeah.


Yeah. This is kind of been like this is like a kind of a challenge. Now, I can't deny it's power and benefit and benefit and I got to do it more. Let's do it more.


OK, here's just driving. I love it. Well, Jamal, I'm so glad that there are folks like you and Adam out there in the world with these great institutions at your disposal doing work that, you know, hanging this stuff on empirical evidence. I think it's really important as far as persuading people to experiment with this kind of stuff.


Yeah, I think it's so much that we appreciate you giving us a voice, too, and sharing this work with the world. I hope that it can be helpful to people. Are you kidding?


We're getting like a free Harvard education now. The amazing free system, big time with no papers are due.


Yeah, we're getting like the best part, just sitting in on the lecture.


That's awesome.


Well, I wish you and your beautiful family lots of health and prosperity, and I hope we get to talk to you again soon.


Thanks so much. Yeah, this is super fun. All right. Take care. Bye bye. And now my favorite part of the show, the fact check with my soul mate, Monica Batmen. How is your moccia so good God, these matches. There's something else they are something else, you know, doesn't like it, Ana.


Oh, I'm working on that. Yeah, you are. I see you.


I struggle because I want her to love Moccia, but I love that she doesn't get peer pressure.


Yeah, it's a real Sophy's for you. Do you think Sophie's Choice will ever become so ubiquitous in our parlance that people will just say, oh, that's a real Sophie's and drop that choice? I like that. I just said it to you and it felt good. Well, that's a real Sophie's wonderful thing I'm talking about so far as though.


Well, you know, some of the best quotes are a little bit confusing.


Yeah, probably in one hundred years it'll be that's a real sofa. And people look it up and go like, oh, my God, I was actually that's a real Sophie. And then they'll go. And then really it was that's a real Sophie's Choice. Aha.


And then they'll learn about the movie. Exactly. Oh I know. Which they never learned about the movie. I love evolution. Why. Because it's just so sad. Yeah.


You know, it's Sophie's Choice or defend you.


I just I thought you would agree. It was horrendous. She had to choose between her car or her motorcycle.


Her main source of transportation was Meryl Streep. Yeah. Yeah, she's chill. I told you I back when I smoked cigarettes. I hope I'm not outing her. And I'm sure she's changed as I have. But like, I guess 16 years ago, 17 years ago, I was at Show West in Vegas and I went outside to grab a dart. And Marilyn.


I had a dart together. You did? Yeah. And when you shot the shit and she was couldn't be more chill.


Oh, man. I was like, this gal's the real deal. OK, I have to address two things.


One, I was on your Instagram this morning. We posted about our shared and dangerous Bigfoot.


Very fun episode. Oh yeah.


And someone wrote Someone needs to tell Monica it's all I could care less. No, it's it couldn't care less. And I apparently say could care less. See what I wrote. Yeah. They said somebody needs to tell Monica. And then you said no thanks. No thank you. Yeah. Yeah. And then a lot of people liked your comment which made me feel good.


OK, but also it's you know, that's OK. I can change. Yeah.


There's a lot of ways, there's a lot of angles to approach this. Sure. The apparently this person's right.


Well, clearly they're right. Yeah.


My bigger issue is like, you don't correct people's fucking language on the Internet. Yeah.


Like, why do you care? You should care less. But at first I was offended and then I was like, fine, sure.


That happens to me a lot. Like you speak pretty accurately. I don't. So I start with offended and then I admit I'm embarrassed. Yeah. And then I go I get over it. So I'm just really I'm just embarrassed.


That's me. That's me.


Yeah, I have that. Well it's not even get over. It's just like oh yeah, I'm wrong about that. I should change it.


But also then there's an element of and did you need a write that of all the things you could have taken the time to type out, certainly Monica was wearing a shirt or sweater in that post that deserved a compliment. I guarantee it. You always have something fun on colorful, exciting, stylish.




Oh, I was I was wearing a gray sweat suit. Oh, Haines's Hains Gray. Well, not a redone ghahramani. No.


And I love that sweatsuit. Yeah, it's nice. So yes. I wasn't something stylish. Yeah. So, you know, say that I guess you don't have to say any more.


We put a whole hour and a half into trying to make an entertaining little thing about Bigfoot for you. You could also comment about the Bigfoot. David Ferrier's down there in fucking New Zealand. Bustan is home because talk about how cute he looks. That's what I did.


Well, some people have pet peeves and they just can't help themselves. Yeah, that's fair.


And I bet we would love this person. Some people. Did you notice some people in the comments want you and David to date?


I saw them and I started thinking about it for the first time.


He's he already he feels very brotherly, though, to me. Like, I get a I feel like he's my new brother and I love it.


Oh, he's terribly cute, though, right? Oh, my God, he's so cute. I can't stand it. He is so cute.


OK, so anyway, I just wanted I'm going to start you ruling it out though, because he's in your brother category. I don't want to say that. But listen, TBD, because he's coming here, he's coming to L.A. and we're going to start working in person with David, which is so exciting.


And so we'll just find out if there's any.


There's brotherly brother, Sister Sparks, her lover Sparks. I could care less now, that's the time to say it, because I care a lot so I could care less. That's true. You can use it correctly. Yeah. Yes.


Maybe I maybe I could have cared less about whatever I said.


It's hard to say. This is the thing that you care the least about. Of all things in the universe. I couldn't care less. That means there is nothing I could care less about. That's a big statement. Almost arrogant.


You're right. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. We just circled back around.


I was right after we flip the script, we flip the script. I'll tell you about that comment, though. We could care less. I could care less. Yeah. Be healthy for us to care less. Yeah. Oh.


So also, I have not made you a Zaydi, but. But that's because this is only a couple of days after we recorded the last fat check.


To be fair to me, it's not like it wasn't a Monday and now it's Friday. Yeah.


Yeah, that's that's the week. Where did I make you anything this week? A burger, the most beautiful burger, yeah, you make me stop. Yeah, and I really appreciate it. And we're not going to get into this again. I mean, I'm going to make it. I just it takes time. And I also can't like Kristen made an incredible soup on, I want to say, Tuesday or Wednesday. And so I couldn't make it that day.


Right. And then we had burgers last night. Couldn't make it that day. Right. Although Laura and Matt have been speaking of the many times. OK, Laura, Laura keeps talking.


Yeah. It sounds like everyone really loves it and that I would have liked it a lot too to what it sounds like. You know, when someone wants the thing you make the way out of, it's hard to say how spectacular was that. Just makes it worse. Sorry.


Yeah, I just wanted you to know it tastes good.


I could totally care less about this.


It'd be better for me, but I am really committed to cooking more this year and I've done pretty good. And I also learned the lesson that you taught me, which is when you when you make a resolution like this to not not be so definitive, like not be so locked in. So I didn't say I'm cooking four days a week. Right. I just said I'm going to cook more. Yeah. And I have yeah.


For four. It sounds like you've cooked a lot for some of your other friends.


No, no. For myself. That's true. You had, you made that chicken that stunk up your apartment.


You came here, you smelt like chicken tenders and your wardrobes ruined.


And then you you made a beautiful ziti for everyone but me. And then what else we got?


Oh, did you call it the Friends and Family Z?


And then specifically not offered to me best friends. Oh my God. I could care less.


Oh my God. Listen, I love you, OK? And it's not enough. Petrifying. I can't believe the love is petrified. Yeah. That's why I can't give you an easy.


Oh OK. I don't think it's a good sign when something's petrifying. That means it's turning from wood to stone.




I was better not I was better to not even ask about this evening. Just let it go.


Petrifying is like OK, like you just said went to stone which which means like disable it like you or you, you're, it's hardening.


You're incapable of doing anything OK.


It stuns you. Stunt stunt your growth and stunts stunt. Yeah it's done. And stunts. We should just left it at stones and see if someone wrote it. Stunts your growth.


I don't want to trap people. I have empathy for them.


Oh right. Yeah that's entrapment. Yeah. I don't want to do that. Yeah. So empathy Jamil was awesome. Oh my God. Yes.


Kristen would say empathy is the most important virtue. Definitely virtue. I think she would even say it is what makes the world spin on its axis. Well, that's just, frankly, not true. It's our relationship to the sun. OK, I shouldn't put that out there, but I think she thinks it's, you know, vital.


Yeah, yeah. I think it's vital. But I do hesitate when we try to say this virtue is better than this one or the most essential, because I really think as social animals, all these different points of view, I think coalesce into this unit that makes us capable of everything as humans. So I think there needs to be members of the society that are low on the empathy scale.


I understand I understand your perspective there, but I, I think we can only benefit from empathy. I do. And I know there's different schools. There's a Paul Bloom School of Thought on empathy and then there's Jamil's and they're different.


Yeah, but I think it's really important to be able to try to see and feel things that another person is going through so that you are more aware. It's just awareness. I totally agree.


I totally, totally agree. I will say an excess of empathy can also lead to stagnation and stalemate because sometimes just ugly decisions got to be made. I think that's just an unavoidable fact on planet Earth. And I think I watch some of these policies and nothing can get going because there isn't the perfect solution, because we are so empathetic to this and we can't evaluate what's for the greater good. What's a utilitarian point of view? I think sometimes it can get a little overwhelming.


Yeah. Or just counterproductive. If it gets too much. You need like the one person who's going to go, I know it sucks, but we got to do this and that person probably is low on the empathy scale. I don't I don't know.


I don't think people who are empathetic are indecisive. Yeah. Or necessarily like a logical or any of those things. I think sometimes people think those are at odds and I don't think they are. I think empathy can inform logic.


Well, I would argue I'll just attack my side because it's my place, too. But free college for every person at every university and debt forgiveness like me, that's a very empathetic point of view. I agree with it. It's huge. It's a problem. And also, I don't believe we have enough tax revenue to be paying for that.


OK, but look, I don't think that's an empathetic necessarily point of view. I think that the empathy comes from there are people who are not given enough opportunity and they're not able to come out of their circumstances. So we need to be able to provide more opportunity. Now, the solution to that, there's many.


So it doesn't mean free. Everything for everyone is the most empathetic. It means that's an option on the table.


And I, I kind of do think that's the end game of empathy. So I think communism is the most obvious political structure that is empathetic. Like everyone should have the same stuff. Every No one should be advantage or disadvantage. We should share everything. And unfortunately, that experiment's been run dozens of times around the globe and that doesn't actually produce the highest standard of living for all, even though there's these enormous gaps that are very troublesome in general.


The that shared living experience in communist Russia, USSR was lower than the poorest person in the United States.


Yeah, but I don't again, like I think you're equating empathy to equality, and I don't think that's the case. Empathy is just understanding the different points of view. It doesn't mean the solution is necessarily everything's equal all the time.


Yeah. Yeah. I don't think that either.


I'm just I'm trying to explore the ways that I think it is useful to have people of varying levels of empathy, you know, someone who's really good at being concerned about the salmon swimming upstream and the problem of dams. I'm grateful to that person. And then there's also got to be on the presents like, yeah, you're thinking very much about the salmon and I get it. But also we got to think about the humans that need water. And when we don't dam up rivers, we have droughts and no one has water.


So like I guess what I'm saying is you can get trapped in it. Yeah, I mean, you could.


I don't. But I don't know that you do. Like I don't think that's a natural outcome of it. It could be an outcome, but I want everyone to be more empathetic.


Yeah, me too. Interpersonally, it's the most phenomenal skill someone could have. Yes. To be in any kind of relationship with any other human being.


Yeah. Imperative. Yeah. That you really try to understand how they're feeling, thinking about it, experiencing it and be able to communicate to that person that you understand that. Yeah, exactly. To start things off. Yeah. Yeah.


So he said he referred to his Archimedes point, which I never heard of Archimedes principle states that the upward buoyant force that is exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially, is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces. Archimedes principle is a law of physics fundamental to fluid mechanics was formulated by Archimedes of Syracuse. Mm hmm.


And this is how they figured out how to establish mass with things that are really hard to measure. Because if you put a bar, if you submerge an object in water and you just measure what it displaces at the top, that's how you get the volume, right?


I think that's part of that.


How does it relate to what was his sentence? I don't know.


OK, here we go. Here we are. OK. You must be feeling you're going to be empathetic.


OK, how do I feel? You feel like shit.


I shouldn't have brought that up because I didn't anticipate it was going to go that way, but was still good to learn about our community. So I guess it's a net win, but by like fifty five percent.


OK, that's pretty good. That's pretty accurate. Yeah, OK.


Oh you're going to turn apathy into the again. Yeah. And to contest a contest to see if you can read everyone's mind.


I'll probably see you were being apathetic because you thought about how I would want to manipulate this thing to serve my selfish needs and I could care less about that.


Your selfish needs. OK, I could care less. Oh.


Ding, ding, ding. Callback. Right. I missed that one, to be honest.


You did. I did. OK, you talked about a book called The Tortilla Curtain and that's you thought it was called that.


It is something. Boyle, T.C. Boyle, T.C. Boyle published in nineteen ninety five. It's about middle class values, illegal immigration, xenophobia, poverty and environmental destruction. In ninety seven it was awarded the French pre sees a strong zha prize for the best foreign novel.


And that French this came up the other day, we were interviewing someone who started speaking French, it is a lovely language. It sure is.


It is. It's enticing. It is OK.


Well, just in case people don't know about the Stanford prison experiment, but I think they do.


Yeah, we did a real good walk through it. Exactly. We've done it. We've talked about it multiple times. So I guess I won't. So if you if you don't know, listen to our show.


Yeah. And listen to our show and look it up. But it's, you know, it's one of the primo psychological quintessential studies, except a bunch of students that make some of them inmates.


They make some of them guards, they watch what happens and everyone falls into the role.


Yeah. And it's fascinating how people fall into their role in Zimbardo. Is the professor, Philip Zimbardo. Let's do one quick challenge, which is, oh, and I want to do something to you. Oh, OK. Great. There was something I earmark that I want to do because I thought it seems from the comments that weren't negative that they like this. So I'm going to do one thing to ask you. Do you start OK?


So I think our challenge should be what can we both be a little more empathetic about or towards?


I'm already aware of this one, but but I'll just say it because it's the one I haven't achieved it at all. Like Reading or Tortilla Curtain really changed my opinion of the folks I was seeing around town. I have a very hard time being empathetic with dudes that I see are being outwardly aggressive. I have a really hard time understanding how they're hurt to and that this is probably a response to being scared like other people's responses, and that that's hard for me.


I would feel like you would have a ton of empathy for those people because you've been aggressive.


But those are the I I disagree. I don't think I'm aggressive. I'm not aggressive towards strangers and stuff.


Or you've had I mean, you have moments of aggression, like the lady at the Home Depot, like not everyone would react the way you reacted. True.


I guess I feel like I don't start stuff. Like I feel like once I start getting fucked with and I respond very aggressively. Sure. But I'm talking about driving around town. You've got a steel nut sack hanging off your truck and wearing a shirt that says, like, tap out or something. Yeah. You know, I'll beat your ass. And then some bumper sticker that basically says you're weak. Yeah, that person is hard for me to have sympathy for and to force myself to understand why there's is a reaction to something that was probably not great background.


Yeah, I guess I can have more empathy for people who comment.


Tell Monica it's couldn't care less and.


Well, that person. Yes. Was probably corrected in some humiliating fashion at some point in their life.


And they decided to get really fucking, you know, diligent, diligent about it. And then now it's they would be so embarrassed if they did what you did. Yeah. So they felt a visceral, emotional reaction to your big blunder. Yeah.


And that's why they were compelled to spend energy correcting it or just there a person on Earth who for some reason it makes them feel good to point out issues or point out misinformation, things that are wrong, you know, and that the empathy part is why does it make them feel good?


And that's where I think there's something sympathetic or sad, because I don't think they're just an asshole.


Yeah, I'm saying I'm but I'm not I'm also not going to conjecture why they are the way they are. But I, I can have empathy for the fact that they're a person on Earth who just wants whatever they want to be seen.


If they want to be seen as smart, they want to be where exactly they have a need that they're trying to fill their I don't know them, so I don't know what the need is, but I recognize that's what's happening and I can have empathy for that.


It's probably not that someone patted him on the back all the time and said, you're so smart. Exactly. Yeah.


OK, you ready for my thing? Yeah. OK, close your eyes.


Oh, I did not have sexual relations. Bilpin.


Yeah. OK, ok, I got one more.


OK, as I'm moving through life now and I see people on TV, I write it in my notes. Oh wow.


OK, ok, hold on. I got to practice this one for one second. OK. I mean, you've added a word or two to Jack Nicholson, now close, OK, you've got a rendezvous with no asshole mother.


I may if I added a word. Yeah.


Clint Eastwood. Oh, can you do that?


Can do some females, I guess. But I don't have to get better.


I don't have to register. I know. But that's why you got to challenge yourself I guess.


But that's like telling me to look like a female in a bathing suit like I have. I have a bunch of equipment down there that stands in the way of that.


Oh, oh, OK, I'll do it. Except except I accept your challenge. Great.


You got both today and I didn't even even have to say, like I'm Dirty Harry. Like I didn't even have to give away one of his.


It wasn't in the what you said. Yeah. Although Eddie does I know that quote because you love it so much. You and Michael Rose.


Well yeah but that was second. That was second. I love you, Monica Latterman. I could care less about you.


Oh, and then I.