Transcribe your podcast

Bad behavior often doesn't happen suddenly. It happens gradually over time, so it's impossible to understand 20, 20 without understanding. Twenty, sixteen and twenty, seventeen and twenty, eighteen and twenty nineteen. And in fact, it's impossible to understand twenty, twenty one. What this really speaks to is the boiling frog effect, the idea that how did people get here? And again, this isn't unique to Republicans or senators or whatever. This is how everything happens.


Welcome to politics. I'm Ron Suslow. Over the last four years, we've watched as nearly the entire Republican Party fell in line behind Donald Trump. We felt the whiplash of watching Lindsey Graham's criticism of Trump during the twenty sixteen campaign transform into unfailing support and defense of the former president. We heard hundreds of reports of Republicans in Congress privately denouncing his policies and language, but then feigning ignorance or even enthusiastically supporting him in public. And even though he has now been stripped of his presidential powers, it is increasingly clear that he still wields near total control over the current Republican Party.


So I wanted to understand why so many people, from elected officials to everyday voters, watched silently while Trump attacked our country's intelligence services, the free press, fallen military heroes, the very democratic institutions that facilitated his shocking victory in 2016 and his resounding defeat in twenty twenty. So why did they decide not to condemn his actions? I've also been curious about what caused some people to break sharply with Trump like Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney and Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, who Trump tried to bully into committing election fraud on a now famous recorded phone call.


What empowered these people to stand up when doing so could come at significant personal and professional cost. As you know, if you've been listening for some time, we've frequently analyzed these behaviors through lenses like political strategy or even national security. But social psychology also has a lot to tell us here. So today I've invited Dr. Catherine Sanderson to help us get a better handle on why so many people struggle to speak out about things they know are wrong and more importantly, what empowers the people who do and what this can teach us about ourselves.


Dr. Sanderson has a doctorate in psychology from Princeton University and is the polar family professor and chair of the psychology department at Amherst College. She's also the author of Why We Act Turning Bystanders into Moral Rebels. Catherine, thank you so much for joining me today. I'm really looking forward to this.


I thank you so much for the opportunity to talk before we really dove in, because it's going to come up a lot throughout this conversation. Can you give us a wide view of what moral rebels are? Just define that term. Sure.


Really important question. Moral rebels are basically people who feel willing to step up and do the right thing, even in cases in which doing so may have consequences, in which doing so may have, in some cases, physical consequences. We often think about people who show physical courage, but moral rebels are people who are willing to stand up and do the right thing, even if it means they experience social consequences. They're not liked. They are ostracized and there are relatively few moral rebels in the world and we need more of them.


So there's this term that you used in the book called Myth of Monsters, and this relates to the famous Milgram experiment, which I'd love for you to lay out, because I think it it can be tempting for many people to assume that bad behavior is carried out by bad people. But of course, it's more complicated than that. Many people may be familiar with this experiment because it's it's very famous. But, you know, just to set the table, can you describe that experiment and then maybe any other iterations of it that have been done since then?


Yes, really important question. So I want to start by actually addressing the really important question of the myth of monsters. And and I think that's actually really important these days because we so often assume that good people do good things and that bad people do bad things. It's a natural sort of shortcut in our thinking that lets us classify people as good or bad. And that Myth of Monsters term actually came from a wonderful book called A Mother's Reckoning, which some people may know.


But it's a book written by the mother of one of the Columbine shooters and and she talks about how very, very normal her life was right up until that moment in which her son, of course, committed that horrific shooting.


And when she first heard about the shooting, she actually worried about her son, was her son OK? She knew he went to Columbine High was OK. And that when I read that book, that term just struck me, because I think it really is a vivid illustration of how easy it is for us to simplify people into good and bad. Now, to turn to your question, which, of course, very much relates about the Milgram study. The Milgram study is a very famous psychology study that many of your listeners probably remember hearing a.


Out in their intro to psychology class some years ago, and people often think about it as the famous shock obedience study. So what happened in this study is Stanley Milgram, then a relatively new professor at Yale University, designed a study that was basically testing why the Holocaust happened. So when this study was carried out in the 60s, there was the assumption that Nazi Germany had occurred because the Germans were bad people.


The Germans were willing to harm innocent victims based on orders from an authority.


And, you know, just inherently as a people, they were just inherently as a people. And, you know, what was really good about that myth of German monstrous theory was, you know what, that wouldn't happen in America because Americans are good people. Americans are good people. And they would not, of course, willingly obey orders to harm an innocent person.


Right. So Milgram designed a study. And and, of course, if Milgram had been right in his intuition, we would not be talking about Milgram today. But what that study did was bring in random people in the community around New Haven. And they were told this was an important study, testing, teaching and learning. And the question was, would people willingly deliver what they believed to be serious electric shocks to an innocent person? Now, the reality, of course, is shocks were not delivered.


The person who was supposedly getting the shocks was an accomplice or confederated of the experimenter. But what they found was that most people, you know, sixty five seventy percent of people willingly obeyed the orders to deliver shocks even as high as in on the shock machine that said X, X, X, four hundred and fifty volts dangerous. And what they found was that most people willingly delivered shocks as high as four hundred and fifty volts if they were ordered to do so by an authority.


That study really illustrates that people are in fact very willing to commit harmful acts if ordered to do so by an authority.


So he set out he set out to essentially prove one thing, disproved himself and raised a whole bunch of new questions in the process. And so I think since then, that experiment may have been repeated and iterated on. Are there any any recent iterations of this experiment that have have bearing on a conversation?




And I will say that standards and institutional review practices have changed in part because of that study, in part because of some other sort of high profile studies and psychology like the Zimbardo prison experiment. People might have heard of them in a movie about that one.


And and small tidbit, my intro psychology professor Phil Zimbardo. Whoa, whoa. Yes, no, I really need to go watch the movie. Yeah, so anyway, well, but I will leave that as it is. But they have done more recent replications. Those studies have stopped before the 450 volts. So you actually cannot get permission to do those studies again. And I want to I want to be clear about that before you get a lot of hateful emails.


I get a lot of hateful emails, meaning you can't even tell people that the shock is higher than even though what it's actually being delivered is very minimal, nonexistent.


Right. And the reason for that, of course, is that it is thought that the cycle has a psychological harm of knowing I am somebody who would deliver the shock to 450 volts.


That may be, as you can imagine, psychologically harmful. So even though you are correct, they are not actually delivering the volts. That self-knowledge at the end of the study when they tell you, oh, by the way, you weren't delivering shocks, but you are really obedient. That in and of itself is thought to sort of not pass the standards that we use now in terms of ethical guidelines for conducting research in psychology. So I want to I want to be very clear about that.


So so the studies have not fully replicated Milgrom in terms of the procedure, but they have absolutely found that Americans today and it's also been done in other countries, most recently in Poland, you get very, very similar rates in terms of people being willing to deliver shocks. The the other nuances and advances within this field of psychology have actually tapped into neuroscience. So they've been able to look at different parts of brain patterns of activation. And what they find is that the act of doing something on your own actually seems different in the brain than the act of following orders.


And so there is now some research basically unpacking why why is it that doing something on your own volition feels different again in the brain, then doing something that is obeying orders? And so that gives us sort of more insight into what's happening. And we also know that when people start to identify not with the person who is supposedly getting the shocks, but with the experimenter. Right. That also changes the nature of the experience because all of a sudden you're not sort of saying, well, gosh, what if it were me who are getting the shocks?


You say, well, I am contributing to science. I am helping in the advancement of scientific knowledge by, in fact, delivering what I believe to be these shocks. And so that's the other sort of thing that's really interesting to think about.


OK, I just want all of our listeners to take a moment. And if you need to rewind that and hear that description again, because it's it's I actually think it serves as a really important backdrop for for what we're going to talk about today and and and in particular, just what people are capable of doing when they're identified with with an authority figure like you, like you mentioned, like the experimenter. So let's talk about the bystander effect for a minute.


I think the you know, the term bystander effect gets tossed around a lot when we think about physical emergencies. And maybe you can give an example of of when a physical emergency might apply. But I'd also like to get an understanding of how it functions when there aren't physical emergencies.


I'm so glad that you raised that point, because I actually think there's a hazard in that when people hear about the bystander effect, they very quickly go to physical emergencies and they think, you know, why can't jump into a burning car or I can't wrestle an assault rifle away from someone. And the reality is, and this is a good thing, most of us do not encounter very many experiences in our lives, most civilians in which physical courage is really required.


Sometimes we do. Sometimes we see a puppy has fallen through an icy lake or there's a burning car or, you know, there's something very dramatic. We're in the middle of a school shooting. But the reality is most of us encounter situations all the time in our personal and frankly, our professional lives that do require moral courage and which you see the bystander effect in action. So let me tell you a really timely and vivid illustration of the bystander effect.


I have a good friend whose daughter was adopted from China as a baby. This this daughter is now twenty two, twenty three years old.


She's recently graduated from college in about a year ago. This time March of twenty twenty. This young woman is on a bus in Boston, crowded city bus going to her job.


And again, it's about a year ago right now, just at the beginning of lockdown. And that will be relevant.


And a man on the bus stands up and says you and your people should go back to China. You are killing American. You are spreading this disease, you should go back to China and you and other people like you should go back to China. Now, this is a young woman, she's twenty two twenty three years old, she just graduated from college, she's on this crowded bus and it was a crowded bus. There were a lot of people on this bus, and I don't believe anyone on the bus thought that this young woman had brought the coronavirus to America and yet not a single person on the bus stood up and did anything.


They didn't go sit with her. They didn't tell the man to shut up. They ignored it.


And that is a classic example of the bystander effect, is there is a study that makes sense to talk about that, or is this a good Segway to pluralistic ignorance?


I mean, there are many studies it before we move on, what could you could you give us the science of why something like that happens, what's going on in the minds of everybody on the bus at the same time? So that the end result is that nobody does anything whenever when it's very obvious, something very it was very obvious.


It was very obvious. So there basically are two things that happen. One, it's probably not accidental that the bus was crowded. So in crowded conditions, you get what psychologists often call the diffusion of responsibility, or we also call it and this is one of my favorite terms, social loafing.


Oh, I do like that. Right. Socializing. And so the idea is it's crowded. So imagine the scene in which there's one other person on the bus, right? There's the young woman who's Asian. There's the crazy guy, and then there's one other person. So in that situation, the one other person is like, gosh, this is bad, this is egregious. Who should do something? Well, gosh, I'm the only brother person on the bus.


Probably that person is me.


And so there's a case in which maybe a person alone on the bus would have stood up and done something, supported her or told the guy to shut up or whatever. But the challenges is when there's a group setting, each individual person is like, wow, it doesn't have to be me because it could be you or it could be you or you. It doesn't have to be me. And so in group settings, you often experience this diffusion of responsibility in which each individual person doesn't feel responsible for stepping up because they assume somebody else can do so.


So so that's one example. But the other phenomenon which you just referenced is pluralistic ignorance, which is the idea that what do we do in a group setting what we look to other people to see what they are going to do. And if no one else steps up, we sort of assume, well, maybe it's not an emergency, maybe I'm the only one. There's a really clever psychology study that was done a number of years ago in which they brought in college students and they had them sit alone in a small room and fill out a survey.


So they're sitting alone in a small room filling out a survey and all of a sudden smoke starts pouring it. Now, if you're all alone in a room and smoke starts pouring in, everybody gets up because they're like smoke fire dangers, but very easy. Then the researchers did something else. They had the person come in and felt the same survey, but they hired two additional college students and they said, no matter what happens, just sit here and keep filling out the survey.


Don't act. So you're in the room with what you believe are the three of you. Smoke starts pouring in and the question is what happens? So you look up and you look at the other two people and they're just filling out the survey and the researchers let the smoke continue to pour in for six minutes.


So you're filling it out. It got so thick of smoke that people had to wave the smoke away to even see the survey to fill it out. And yet in that situation, most people just set for the whole six minutes while the room filled with smoke and they don't do anything. So the researchers then finish the study and they say to people, did you notice the smoke?


And everybody says, oh, yes, yes. Oh, I did. I did notice the smoke. And then they say, what do you think it was? And people overwhelmingly think, well, I thought it was an air conditioning vent malfunctioning or I thought it was truth serum. You are pumping into the room. They have all of these sort of nonemergency explanations because here's the thing. They look at the other two people. The other two people aren't reacting.


And so they assume, oh, it must not be an emergency. And that phenomenon is what we call in psychology, pluralistic ignorance, which is basically the ignorance of the crowd that in a crowded situation, you look to other people to react. If they're not reacting, then you assume they must have some kind of hidden information or another interpretation. But the challenges that means in group settings, everybody individually may be like, oh, my gosh, this is awful.


This is a bad thing. But if nobody speaks up, then each individual person thinks, oh, it's only me, it's just me. And so, in fact, it basically means that silence begets silence. Inaction begets an action. OK, so, so many threads to pull on here with pluralistic ignorance in particular, so I want to linger on this topic for a moment. I'm interested in linking this to the members of Congress who privately opposed Trump, publicly supported him.


I'd also like to get your take on how you would describe the role of pluralistic ignorance playing out in the twenty twenty election. And then I'd love to dig into the neuroscience of that, if you wouldn't mind. So why don't we why don't we start with the members of Congress? Sure.


You've written a lot about this recently. I think I have. And I have written a lot about it. And it always, frankly, depresses me so that that's my XYZ.


So early on in Trump's presidency, it became clear that lots of Republicans were privately horrified by things he was doing and saying. And yet it also became equally clear that many of them were absolutely refusing to speak up, so they would say things like, I haven't read the tweets or I'm not really up on that or whatever, no comment. And I remember time and time again, and I think Jake Tapper in particular would often start his Sunday show saying, we've invited all members of the Republican Party in the world and no one will appear.




I mean, isn't that like I mean, Jake Tapper was just retweeting that like so with some regularity. Yeah. So why? Because they couldn't really. Defend debt, but they also knew they couldn't really speak up. And so what is really fascinating is that in two impeachment trials of President Trump, the number of Republican senators who voted to convict I mean, basically was Mitt Romney eight times two and then a few more, a small handful. But a fascinating question that again, went around on Twitter a fair amount was how about if it was a secret ballot?


Right. How about the secret ballot? Because that's a completely different situation. Right. And that kind of gets at the issue of pluralized ignorance. So there's another classic study in psychology that I'm sure many of your listeners have heard about, which is the Ashlynn judgment.


Yes. I wanted to ask you about this. Perfect. So what you see in the study is when people come in, they are told to match a target line with one of three others, A, B or C. So let's say that the target line is exactly the same as B, the middle of the lines. When people do it privately on their own and they don't have to say their answer aloud, everyone is exactly right. No one makes a mistake.


But when people come in and they have to verbally give their response and it follows a bunch of people before them who've all given what is obviously a wrong line. Again, let's say the right line is B, but all these other people go A when it gets to you. You just go ahead and say A as well, even though you totally know it's wrong and the right answer is B. And so the challenging thing, looping back to your question about the GOP is I'm really frankly torn because I do believe that some members and not just Mitt Romney, but I believe some other members fully believe that things that Trump did and and frankly does are wrong, are wrong, that they are absolutely wrong in some cases.


I think they probably find them morally reprehensible. We can look at the transition of Lindsey Graham and the things that he said in twenty fifteen to twenty two to twenty twenty one. But I actually believe there are other members of the Republican Party who have come to support and believe Trump in a sort of real way and and that maybe even under conditions of a secret ballot, would be unwilling to defy him. And and that's where I'm sort of pausing because I think for many years people felt, well, you know, if it was a secret ballot, surely they would stand up or surely they would speak out.


But I think it's sort of an open question, right, as to where the Republican Party is right now. And I think that's you're hearing that play out and a lot of different ways, you know, on the ballot podcast and reports and Bill Kristol and and so on.


Yeah, we can't talk about what's happening to the Republican Party without talking about Republican voters and and what happened in twenty twenty and how the sort of fealty to an authoritative leader became the that became the tent pole of the Republican Party, more so than any other principle it ever had previously espoused. And I think it's been said over and over again by so many people just how shocking this was that so many people could willfully abandon what they originally signed up for, what originally drew them to the party in favor of this kind of authoritarian leadership that actually had had no grounding in in conservatism, as it once was known.


So how do you think about pluralistic ignorance in the context of what transpired in twenty twenty? And feel free to talk about the pandemic as well, but mostly interested in in the politics of twenty twenty and the way that campaign played out and the way it still seems to be playing out in the minds of of the voters who still support Trump. I mean, he still seems to control it. One hundred, I'm sure you saw the the clips of Sepak, which, you know, the the Donald Trump golden statue, which we turned out was whether it was plastic actually was plastic.


That's very suitable for doing that anyway.


Yeah. How how are you thinking about that?


So I think it's very hard to look at twenty twenty in isolation and and I think it almost goes back to the point, the question that you asked me at the beginning today about the myth of monsters, that bad behavior often doesn't happen suddenly. It happens gradually over time, so it's impossible to understand 20, 20 without understanding. Twenty, sixteen and twenty, seventeen, twenty, eighteen and twenty nineteen. And in fact, it's impossible to understand twenty, twenty one.


So so to me, what this really speaks to is the boiling frog effect. Right. The idea that how did people get here. So the very first psychology study you asked me today about was the Milgram study and we actually skipped over something. I skipped over it. And that is what happened in the Milgram study. So, yes, they did, in fact, ask people to deliver shocks to an innocent person. But what they didn't do was bring people in and say, give them four hundred and fifty volts.


What they did was they said, give them 15. Give them 30, give them forty five, and that's really important, right, because we didn't get to that suddenly. That to me is the challenge and it's in fact what Milgram study illustrated. If Milgram had brought people in and said go to 450 volts. Who would have done that, psychopaths, a very Seibold waiting for somebody to let me do that. Exactly, exactly. But it would have been a tiny, tiny percentage of people.


And in fact, before Milgrim did a study, he went to psychiatrists and psychologists and he said, who would go to 450 volts? And what they said was one percent of people or half of one percent of people. But here's the thing. What he didn't do was say, oh, wait, how about if you had them do 15, 30, 40, five, etc.? And that's the challenge. The challenge is you can't understand the Republican Party in twenty, twenty one without understanding all of the steps that led to CPAC speech yesterday.


It didn't happen suddenly. It happened gradually over time. And again, this isn't unique to Republicans or senators or whatever. This is how everything happens. So the other story, which doesn't seem like a political story but is kind of a political story, is last week a person committed suicide who was part of the USA gymnastics scandal. And and that got a little bit of attention. But he was, in fact, part of the long standing problems that were associated with the sexual abuse that was occurring for years.


And so he was all of a sudden charged. So it was John Geter is his name. Many people may, in fact, remember him because he was part of the United States Olympic women's gymnastics team and he was all of a sudden supposed to appear in court. He died by suicide, and that was because he was finally charged with various crimes. Now, he was the head coach of the 2012 US women's gymnastics team. So there's an example in which if you look at what happened in that case, but what happened in many cases, you see the slippery slope, right?


You see the slippery slope and a lot of people looking aside, looking the other way. And so what you see with the Republican Party today is, well, he said, you know, they're not sending us our best. You know, they're Mexicans are rapists and people are like, I really don't like that. And then he said, well, there's a total and complete ban on Muslims and I really don't like that. And then he said there are fine people on both sides and I really don't like that.


And then he said, you know, et cetera of the US, the the Hollywood tape, whatever. I mean. And so the challenge is what you see in the Republican Party today. Is there all of these moments in which people could have stood up and some people did step up? And and frankly, Mitt Romney, he did step up. Right. If you look at Mitt Romney's statements time and time again, Mitt Romney has been speaking out right.


There is a Washington Post op ed shortly after he was elected. And and Mitt Romney has consistently spoken out. But the challenges, every time you don't speak up, it becomes harder to speak up later on. Right. It is the boiling frog effect.


Yeah, I'm so glad you mentioned that. Although I'm struck by the fact that logicians would call the slippery slope rhetorical device a fallacy. But actually, it's very predictive when we're talking about social psychology.


It's very predictive. It's very predictive in part because once you've ignored something. You've kind of owned it and it becomes harder psychologically to then speak out because to speak out and say, you know what, I'm not going to deliver two hundred volts. Yeah, you have to justify. Well, I also did just deliver one hundred eighty five and, you know, 70.


And that's the challenge. And again, this is how you see what happens all the time with fraternity hazing deaths is that people say, well, you know, I wanted to join the fraternity and I did this and and then I did this and then I did this. And again, that's the slippery slope. You see it happening psychologically. It's how you see corporate fraud. So Bernie Madoff describes what he did as well. I was a little bit short.


And so I did this and and then I did this and then I did this. And so psychologically, once you have gone down a certain path, it actually becomes very hard to stop yourself once you've gone down. And people often say, well, this is not a big deal. This is just something small. But one of the points that I talk about is you got to sweat the small stuff that people the problem is when you overlook the small stuff and here's the thing.


If in twenty seventeen Republicans in the Senate had said, if you do this again, President Trump, we aren't going to support your justices, your judges, your nominations or whatever, they could have a hundred percent put a stop to it. But he learned he could get away with it because he did. So this is a good illustration in the book, you write about a quote from former FBI Director James Comey where he says It starts with you sitting silent while he lies both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence.


And when I spoke with Mary Trump, she called these MicroCon sessions and Comey, Comey goes on to say, next, Mr. Trump attacking institutions and values you hold dear things you have always said must be protected, yet you are silent. So I'm going to crudely attempt to summarize what I think is is is valid psychology, which is something I learned from Dr. Robert Cialdini at Arizona State University. And he calls it the consistency principle. And I wonder if that applies here, because as I understand it, the consistency principle essentially makes you more likely to act in a way that's consistent with previous behaviors that you have that you've that you've taken, if for no other reason than a neurologically efficient.


They're more neurologically efficient because our brains have evolved to analyze less and rely on decisions we've made in the past so that we have to consume and then spend less energy making decisions because decisions are are sort of calorically costly in a way. Is that accurate? It's absolutely accurate.


And I will say another very related principle, again, within the field of psychology is the role of cognitive dissonance. Right.


So the idea of cognitive dissonance is that we feel tremendous anxiety and arousal and it feels unpleasant, unpleasant arousal when our attitudes and behavior conflict or when we hold disconfirming attitudes that are disagree with each other. So you might say, you know, I am not a racist and yet I did this thing or whatever. And so part of the issue is that that it feels very unpleasant. And that's the idea of the consistency principle, is that we want to have our attitudes in line with one another and we want to have our attitudes in line with our behavior.


And it feels it feels bad. It feels bad when they don't. I'm glad you're enjoying today's episode so far, many of you have reached out and asked how you can help continue the work we're doing at Politico. And you should know we are an entirely independent organization committed to changing and expanding and evolving how we think about politics. So we do really need your support to keep it going. We love that so many of you have been with us for such a long time through growth and change and renewal.


And we love hearing that you're learning and growing with us.


We have lots of exciting stuff planned, like the redistricting series we just recently started and soon an extended special series on the origins and consequences and future of Kuhnen. We want this work to remain accessible to everyone. So we're thinking through subscription options with episode transcripts and exclusive segments. But in order for us to keep building together, we need your support right now. If political G is valuable to you and you want it to continue and most importantly, if you want to be a part of making it happen, we would appreciate you pitching in.


What you can just visit our website, Political Dotcom and click contribute. There's a link in the show notes today, and I want to give a special shout out to a few of you who have already generously contributed to keep this show running, including Nancy W.. Mark L, Beth A. and Maureen G.


On behalf of the political G team, you have our sincere thanks and we're all thrilled that you're with us on this journey. So how do people get from these small concessions, Mary's example was about how beautiful his plane is, right? When you don't say anything, when he's bragging about Osman's planes. How do you get from small concessions to sitting silently while he lies about something like voting?


So I think there's I think there are two key things going on. So, one, when you have consistently not called him on silly things, right. This plane is beautiful or whatever, he won all of the real map was this except all of these illegal people voted or whatever, the only votes against me were illegal votes. Exactly. Exactly. Otherwise, I would have won. So so once you don't call him on that, it becomes harder and harder to call him later on because you have stayed silent.


So one of the challenges, if we look at what happened January six, for example, what led into that, that also didn't happen in a vacuum. Right. So the networks called the election, I think, the Saturday after. Right. So people voted on Tuesday by Saturday and had been called by virtually every major network, AP and so on. And yet many people, including Mitch McConnell, said, well, you know, we're going to wait until things play out or we're going to wait until the states are going to wait until this or whatever.


And so, again, there were several weeks in which there was no real acknowledgment by Republican leadership that he had, in fact, lost, that he had lost the popular vote, the electoral vote, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. You know, there was a lot of of absence of acknowledging that. And so, again, January six didn't happen by accident. It didn't happen spontaneously. It happened because of that. But the other issue is that when President Trump, for example, is in a room at QPAC or the White House or the Oval Office or whatever, and he says something outlandish and you're in a group, you might individually be like, that's crazy or that's wrong.


But you might think you're the only person thinking that that everybody else might, in fact, be like, yeah, he's totally right. And so that's where the issue of pluralized ignorance comes in, right. That individually each person in the room might be thinking the same thing. But if no one speaks up, then everybody individually says, I guess I guess everybody else is good with this. And again, to to make it less about the GOP, I want to be really clear that this is not a Republican senator, probably.




I mean, this is this is because we are people this is because Republican senators are human beings. And I was struck by an example that I describe in the book. One of my students, senior on the basketball team, super smart, good student. He's sitting in my office. One day he was in my social psychology class talking about this stuff.


And he says, you know what's interesting? Every day in the locker room, someone says something offensive.


So, first of all, it's interesting that he will share that with his professor. But nonetheless and what struck me was he is recognizing it's offensive. And yet he's also saying that sometimes I speak up and sometimes I don't. And what occurred to me was it's distinctly possible that every day in that locker room, somebody says something offensive and most people in that locker room are going, that's offensive, but none of them are speaking up. So that's an example, right, of pluralistic ignorance that maybe lots of people in that locker room are going like they hear it and they hear it and they find it problematic.


But they don't believe that anyone else finds it problematic because they are all being silent. Right. They are all staying silent, just like many people in the Oval Office are. Many people at CPAC are many people in lots of circumstances. We don't know because these votes are often not happening anonymously. So so the really interesting question would be we know what the impeachment vote was when it was not anonymous and people had to own it. People had to risk, I'm going to go home and my constituents are I'm going to get primaried or whatever.


What would the vote have been anonymously? Right. That is an interim question. I don't have an answer, but that is really the interesting question.


So so this gets back to conformity. And you talked about the experiment a little bit earlier. But I wanted to I wanted to go back to that for just a moment and have you explain maybe the the the neurobiological processes that are going on and tell us what conformity has to do with chocolate.


Oh, all right. So well, and this also goes back to the very first point that you asked me about the myth of monsters. We are hardwired as people to want to fit in. It's important, it's fundamentally important, and research now in neuroscience has shown that when you are ostracized by your group and again, your group could be your fraternity, it could be your athletic team, it could be your fellow Republican congresspeople at the luncheon or whatever.


I mean, so it could be it could be lots of different things. Right. It activates a part of the brain that feels physical pain, that when you are ostracized, when you are rejected. And what that tells us is that experiencing social pain, rejection, ostracism, it feels in the brain the same as when you experience physical pain, when you have a papercut, when you stub your toe, when you twist your ankle. And so what that tells us is that evolutionarily we do not want to be ostracized, rejected from our group.


When we are ostracized, it feels bad. And to get to your chocolate point, when we fit in and do things that are in line with the group, it activates a part of the brain that is rewarding the same part of the brain that is activated when you eat chocolate, also when you use cocaine. But that's like a last recommended example.


But but so what that tells us is that we are human beings hardwired to want to fit in. We want to fit in. We want to be accepted. And so doing things that get you rejected or that may get you rejected or that deviate from your group make us feel bad. And so we are highly motivated not to go there. And so, again, it's very normal to stay silent in the face of bad behavior by a group member. It's normal.


I don't want to put you on the spot, but are you could you talk a little bit about the sort of the evolutionary reason for that, like the anthropological reason for for why we might have developed those neurochemical pathways to to feel reward and punishment for those things?


So there are there's lots of evidence that being in groups is important to our survival. Right. It's probably evolutionarily adaptive to be part of a group to fit in. And in many ways. So you and I have focused on people not speaking up in the face of bad behavior. But the reality is, in lots of cases, we want people to fit in with the group. Right? We would like people to obey stop signs. Right. We're not like, you know what?


Forget the stop sign. I'm my own person, you know, forget the stop sign. That's just a weird social convention that other people do. We would like people to obey stop signs and red lights. Even if there's no police officer within miles, we still would like people to stop at a stop sign. And so it's not that we're only hardwired to behave poorly. I mean, we have sort of focused on bad behavior and overlooking it. There's a study that I love that in fact was designed to increase water conservation and it was done in different hotels in study.


Yeah, yeah. It's yeah, it's terrific. Yeah. Right. So so what they were trying to do was to get people in hotels, actually people in hotels to reuse their towels. And some people got a little message that you can probably visualize now, not that any of us have stayed in a hotel recently, but nonetheless then it was like, know it will help Mother Earth if you use your towel, it will save electricity and water and so on.


And other people got a little plaque that said something like eighty five percent of hotel guests. We care about Mother Earth and so they reuse their towels, etc.. And so what they found was basically people don't care about Mother Earth, but they care about other people caring about mother.


And so you could get far more people to reuse their towels by taling than other people do, which again, there's an example of peer pressure. Right. Conformity. I want to conform again to random hotel guests who I do not know, who are not like in my group. We still do that conformity. A very clever study by political scientists at Yale, similar idea tried to increase voting. And what they found was you increase voting by telling other people a lot of your neighbors vote.


That was this. The direct mail experiment, the direct mail experiment, write the direct mail, telling people most of your most of your neighbors vote. And we're going to be reporting to them if you vote, that peer pressure can increase prosocial behavior as well. So it's important to remember conformity is not just conformity to fraternity hazing or ignoring smoke or racism on bus in Boston. Right. I mean, conformity could also be used to drive important, real, socially valid behavior.


You just have to, like, flip the switch just as a as a quick bookmark for our listeners. If you're interested in in that direct mail experiment. I first learned about it in a book called The Victory Lap by Sasha Issenberg.


He wrote back in, I think twenty twelve or so, twelve or thirteen. And it's all about tools and tactics used in the campaign industry. And that was one of the that was one of the experiments he cited, is that the effectiveness of certain types of drug. Let's go to January 6th, because we saw this crowd give given everything that we've just discussed, I think our listeners now have a really rich toolset to approach this event with. We saw this crowd attack the Capitol, and it was carried out by a group that demographically doesn't square with prior research on people who are likely to be extremists.


Right. Can you talk about the factors that could have contributed to the violence that we saw?


So lots of research has shown that when people are in a crowd, they are much more likely to behave poorly. Being in a group setting leads to something that psychologists call these individuation, which basically means you stop thinking about yourself as an individual person and you start thinking about yourself as just part of this crowd. And it's why you see crowds of all kinds kind of get swept up and in some cases engage in really violent behavior. Many people probably remember hearing about fans celebrating Super Bowl wins by setting cars on fire or breaking windows or crashing through awnings in group settings.


People stop thinking about themselves as individuals, and it makes it much easier to engage in bad behavior. That's especially true if you identify strongly with the crowd. So the Super Bowl example I gave just now, many people are wearing I'm thinking about the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win in particular, in which many people, of course, are celebrating, wearing jerseys and hats and so on. If you look at what happened on January 6th, many people were wearing Magots, they were wearing Kuhnen paraphernalia and so on.


So they it was not just random people there swept up in the moment. It were it was people who were motivated to take time out of their days and lives to come to the capital who were doing so at the request of their leader, the president of the United States, somebody who they certainly identified with. And they were very much identified with what happened in that group setting. And that makes it far easier to engage in bad behavior.


There is a key finding in the Milgram study that showed that people are more likely to carry out violence even if it means harming an innocent person, if the authority figure spurring violence assumes responsibility for any negative outcomes. So I'm wondering how Trump's previous comments, you know, like about the legal bills, for example, for a supporter who had a protest or could factor into their decisions because he said that in the past at his rallies, don't worry, you know, knock him out, I'll cover the legal bills.


You know, anecdotally, at least one of the rioters thought that they would be pardoned for their role in what happened.


Well, and not only that, he also said to them, I will be going with you. Oh, you did. So it's not even like you go do your thing and I will pardon you. It was we it was it was he was the we he was. We will we will do this. Right. So so it's not only that he's directing them, he's also they believed participating. We will march to the Capitol together. Yeah.


And do you think that the gradual nature of like the January six didn't just appear out of nowhere and happen? Right. It was it was like the culmination of it was like it was four hundred and fifty volts. Right. It was the day that they went to four hundred and fifty volts.


But prior to that it had been building and escalating over time. Is it I mean is that the way you see it.


Well absolutely. And again, that happened basically what, two or three a.m. the day after Election Day. Right? I mean, so, so two or three like middle of the night, Trump says we won. We won. We what we want and we have to stop the votes and, you know, look at what's happening in Philadelphia or whatever. But he said we won. And then he continued to say we want right. He continued to go to fifteen Bolton, thirty vote and forty five votes.


And he said, we won on TV. He said, we want on Twitter. He said, we want at rallies. He said we want and again and and not just did he say it all those times it was carried on CNN and Fox, you know. So it was widely characterized, it was covered by newspapers. So everybody kept saying he says he won. He says he won. He says he won. And no one in the Republican Party almost.


No. But again, I believe Mitt Romney did mention and send their congratulations to Jill and Joe or whatever. But but. Very, very, very few people congratulated Biden accepted that Biden had won, and so that, again, all of those are steps. So January 6th, absolutely it was 450 volts. I mean, I guess my only hesitancy is that I'm hoping that that was 450 volts and that we're not still waiting for 450 volts. But sure.


Let's go with that being 450 volts, OK?


Sorry. No, that's appropriate. Before before this conversation gets any darker, let's talk about moral rebels and their traits. So what allows people to stand up when they're under social pressure not to? What are the traits that we should be looking for, not just in our leaders, although let's talk about the traits we should be looking for in our leaders, but also in in the people we surround ourselves with, with and in ourselves. Thank you for that question.


And that is a hopeful and optimistic question. Right. So, so moral Rumpole's, which I think is where we started this conversation today. So moral rebels have a few distinct traits and one. And let me also be clear that moral rebels are not moral arbiters. So people often go and I want to be clear, because that's, I think the number one distinction. I really do, because people often are like, well, who are you to say what's morally right or who are you to the key about moral rebels?


It doesn't matter what your political views are, your religious views or etc.. The key thing about moral rebels is they are able to stand up and do what's right, even if they may face a political consequence. So I know we've talked a lot about the Republican Party, but in some senses you can play out who is a moral rebel. Exactly the same in the Democrats. Right. So you often can see, well, why isn't Joe Manchin or Christian cinema, why are they not going along with the 15 dollar minimum wage?


They are also moral rebels. So, again, the key thing is not are you right or wrong? Are you morally good person or bad? The key thing about moral rebels is you are able to stand up to peer pressure. So you're able to do the things that you and I have just talked about of of dealing with the brain activation that comes from, oh, my gosh, I might be ostracized, you know, I might not be liked.


And so that's a little bit of a long answer. But to be clear, moral rebels are not about morally good versus bad people. They are people who are willing to stand up and buck their crowd to support what it is important. So what do we know about that one? They tend to feel good about themselves. They tend to be pretty high in self esteem. I think you can see that with Mitt Romney. I think you can actually see it with Adam Kinzinger.


They feel good about themselves. They don't need the external validation of we like you. Or I guess in the case of Adam Kinzinger, you can still come to Thanksgiving dinner or whatever from his family. Moral rebels also tend to be less socially inhibited. So they just kind of are like, all right, I guess maybe people aren't going to like me. All right. Won't be the first time. Won't be the last. All right. There it is.


And so they have this ability to stand up to social influence. And I have to say, I have been struck repeatedly and and I'll do a little bit of weird self disclosure here, which is actually the first time that I've talked about this, despite many podcasts. And I didn't talk about it in the book. I am from a family of Mormons.




OK, which is often surprising to people. And so I am not a Mormon, but my parents were married in the Salt Lake City temple, which is where Mitt Romney was married. And it has struck me that is not an accident, that Mitt Romney was the only vote initially in the first round of the impeachment trial. Because here's the thing. If you are a Mormon, you are constantly having to stand up, right?


You are you are having to say, no, I don't drink alcohol. Very true. When there are a lot of other people.


No, I don't drink coffee. No, I am going to whatever I am going to practice their religion that some people kind of don't really understand or think is a cult or whatever. And so I believe that Mitt Romney has probably gotten really good at developing a spine.


It's not the first time that people have ridiculed Mitt Romney for something. He's probably dealt with that his whole life. So that's thing number one.


That's a really good example. I just. Do you mind if I interrupt you? Just hold that thought. I just want to flag this as it pertains to Mitt Romney, because it's it hasn't he has consistently exhibits this behavior. And I remember seeing clips of him at the Salt Lake City Airport being harassed really viciously by his constituents as he was on his way to go vote to ratify the the election and how they were calling him a traitor. And it was just it was it was heartbreaking to me, not because I agree with Mitt Romney's positions on everything, but because he was actually doing he was following his conscience.


Right. And I felt the same way when I saw. Ridiculed for marching with Black Lives Matter, because no other Republican politician, no other opponent would dare to do something like that, and he knew it was the right thing to do and he was there. I just thank you for bringing him up as an example. And those two things stick out in my mind as as sort of examples to aspire to.


I'm glad that you like that example, because I'm going to return to it. I'm going to return to it again and again because because I actually believe that Mitt Romney is basically a perfect illustration of the moral rebel. So I want you to repeat what you just said, though. The he's following his conscience. Is that what you just said with that quote? Am I? Well, and that is kind of the key of the moral rabble, right?


You're not going along to get along. You are following your conscience. And he's following even knowing that he's from a state that voted for Trump 90 percent or I mean, you know, Utah is not a purple state, right? I mean, Utah is not going to be a purple state. He's knowing that he's going to go home and face that in the airport and he's probably going to face that the rest of his life. So what else do we know about moral rebels?


Well, we know they're high in empathy. We know they are very good at putting themselves in somebody else's shoes. So let's now go back to Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney spent two years serving out his Mormon mission in which he was trying to show empathy, trying to teach people about the Mormon religion, the Mormon religion. You tithe 10 percent of your income to help other people, to help the church. It's a religion that does practice, like many religions, helping other people.


And Mitt Romney is clearly a deeply religious man, regardless, again, of what somebody thinks about that specific religion. He is clearly somebody who has a deep belief in religion, who takes his religious life very seriously. And many religions practice do unto others. Right. There's a lot of emphasis on empathy, right? A lot of emphasis on empathy. Third, and this is perhaps my favorite people learn how to be moral rebels around the kitchen table.


We model being a moral rebel from our parents that you learn the act, you model it just like you model lots of different things.


So let's think now for a minute about George Romney. Let's think about Mitt Romney's dad and Mitt Romney's dad got himself into a fair amount of trouble with the Republican Party. Because he, in fact, was standing up for the civil rights movement and and Mitt Romney supported the civil rights movement and and was in fact, in the nineteen sixty four presidential election, he was vying versus the more conservative candidate, Barry Goldwater. And and he paid the price for that within the Republican Party.


So Mitt Romney saw his dad be a moral rival. He saw his dad stand up. And your example that you just shared with Mitt Romney, the only Republican senator or congressman who attended a Black Lives Matter protest.


So is it an accident? Mitt Romney came from George Romney. He is following in his father's footsteps. And to me, as a mom, I have three kids. Two sons are in college, daughters in high school. We want our kids to be moral rebels. Right? We want our kids to stand up in the locker room and say, stop it. We want our kids to be the ones on the bus who do the right thing. We want our kids to call nine one one in a fraternity hazing ritual.


We want our kids to stand up and call out the bullies in the locker room. We want our kids to be moral rebels because we want our kids to do the right thing even when there is peer pressure to not do the right thing. Can we just take a quick detour on empathy for a moment, because I think Teresa Weissman's research might be helpful here, so she's a nursing scholar who looked at a bunch of professions where empathy was relevant and created a conceptual analysis of empathy.


And she says empathy is a skill and that it has four attributes to to see the world as other people see it, to stay out of judgment, understand how other how the other person's understand the other person's feelings and then communicate understanding of those feelings. So I just I want to pose the question to you. Is empathy an innate human characteristic or is it something that we learn? So I'll say what I say to my students when they asked me a very similar question and here's my answer, yes and yes, OK, so they love that answer.


So. So it does appear that some people are naturally higher in empathy. It appears through that based on research looking at fMRI data. So, again, patterns of brain activation, patterns of brain structure. So it may be that some people come into the world and they are very empathetic. They cry when they see something happen in a movie. They can immediately put themselves in somebody else's shoes. And for people who are high and empathy, when somebody else experiences pain, it feels to them like they are experiencing pain.


There's fascinating research done by Abigail Marsh at Georgetown that has looked at people who have done something extraordinary, donated a kidney to a stranger. So that's not a self-interested donation, right?


These are people who've just said, I got to you can have one.


And again, and what she has found in her research and there's the wonderful TED talk that she does on this topic for people who are interested. But what she's found is that those people look different from other people. They look different in the brain. So they don't you can actually identify those people suggesting that, yes, they are hardwired in some way, right? They are hardwired in some way. They came into the world this way. And and so feeling that somebody else needs a kidney feels to them like they need a kidney.


It feels terribly bad. And so they are highly motivated to engage in this act of what she calls extraordinary altruism, because it actually feels bad to them knowing somebody else is in pain now. So, yeah. So that was the first part of your question. Are people born this way? Yes. But the other important thing is that we can also learn to develop empathy. We can learn to say how would it feel? So when I I started today by describing my friend's daughter, who was on a bus in Boston, that was my daughter on a bus in Boston, I would want somebody to speak up.


I would want somebody to go sit with her. I would want somebody to make her feel better. If it was my son who was unconscious in a fraternity house, I would want somebody to immediately call nine one one. And so part of it is frankly trying to model how would you feel if how would you feel if this happened to you? And we can, in fact, develop that skill, develop that ability to engage in perspective, taking to, in fact, develop that skill in ourselves, to develop that skill in people around us so that we sort of naturally take that side and say, OK, so back to more moral rubble.


So let's talk about cultivating moral rubble. So one of the helpful things from the book is learning that being a moral rebel is also something you can learn to do, just like empathy. So what are some ways our listeners can improve their ability to be moral rebels? Wonderful question.


So and the good news is there actually are lots of things that we can do. One of the simplest is, in fact, understanding the psychology underlying inaction.


So, for example, you and I have talked a lot today, kind of in a nerdy boy. My students are like, really? People voluntarily listen to her talk about that.


But anyway, but one of the keys is that when you think about things like social loafing or pluralistic ignorants, understanding those terms actually lets people be a moral rebel. Right? Because when you're in a setting and you're going like, well, this is bad, but it's only me, then all of a sudden you're like, oh, wait, I bet it's not only me. I bet this is a case of pluralistic ignorance. And in fact, if I stand up, other people will support me.


And so many people have had the experience of stepping up in a meeting or something and saying or doing something that maybe felt a little risky. And then other people being like, oh, yeah, I agree. Oh yeah, I agree. Or maybe other people emailing you later on. Like, thanks for speaking it. I was I was thinking that, but I didn't say anything. And so one thing is, frankly, understanding the psychology that leads people to stay silent can actually give people the courage to speak up.


And that's actually important. I've shown in some of my own research with students that just telling people, other people think the same actually changes people's behavior. And so our conversation and listening to this actually will help people be better able to interpret other people's silence that either way.


Yeah, if you've made it this far, you're already on your own. That's that's right.


So, so understanding that is really helpful. So I talked to my college students about that. I talked to my biological children about that and so on. So so one one thing is that so that's one to it's really important to recognize that you don't necessarily have to be the big hero. So you don't have to stand up and be like you're a jerk or you're stupid or you're. Racist or you're sexist or whatever, you can take a moment and sort of interrupt the situation.


What do you mean by that or oh, you know, you might say you're probably just joking, but did you know? And so I think giving people tools to be able to interrupt a moment, call out something and just say, I don't agree with this or I am finding this problematic. That can also be helpful. I think another key and you and I have talked about this is try not to head down the wrong road.


So the so the sweat, the small sweat, the small stuff.


I love that. I love that phrase.


And I think it's I think it's really important because often people say, well, I didn't step up because it was just a little joke. I didn't step up because we're not that big a deal. I didn't step up because it wasn't my place. But the issue is, as we've talked about, January six didn't happen in a vacuum, you know, 20, 30, 40 and 50 votes. And so part of the issue is what you see, in fact, in research from the Milgram study is that people who initially are like, I'm not good with this and they're able to call it off early.


Those are the people who successfully don't go to 450 volts because they say, you know what, here's my line and I'm out of here. And so people who are able to say, here's my line and I'm out of here, that's really important. So don't say, you know what, I'm going to wait to the 450 volts to speak up. That's going to be my moment. You might imagine that will be your moment, but it won't be, because if you're in the room at 450 volts, you're going to agree no one goes to four thirty five volts and doesn't go to 450 volts.


So, so, so recognizing get yourself out. And that can be advice to use for students. If you're in a room in which somebody does something and you can't speak up, get the hell out of the room. So you talk about the challenges that polarization can present for practicing empathy, and I wonder if you could spend a little bit of time talking about how we can expand our ingroup or our our US, especially within the pandemic. And and I think by now, by this point, it'll be really clear why that why that's so important.


The ingroup, the other people with whom we identify all around us who are looking for social cues to reinforce our own behavior, to be consistent with. Right. So I think it should be clear why we would want to do that. Can you talk about how.


Yeah, so one of the things that's so important and this also, in fact, very relates to our conversation about empathy, that when you think about why I think the ingroup, what you are basically trying to do is broaden the number of people who you can see the world through their eyes. So I am a college professor. One of the challenges that colleges all across the world are having is how do you get college students who are basically young, healthy people to wear a mask, to engage in social distancing, you know, to follow recommended guidelines, to not spread covid.


And that, of course, is something that that colleges are encountering. But here's the key. The challenge becomes who are college students groups? If college students in group is other young, healthy college students who whatever I want to go to a party, it's very hard to get them to wear a mask if they're in group is you know what? It's not your age group of college students. It's that older woman who serves you in the dining hall.


It's that older gentleman who is a custodian in your dorm. It's that young woman who hands you your library book. But you don't know. She has a child at home who is immunocompromised, who is in treatment for cancer. That's widening the group. It's not the 18 to 20 year olds in your group that you care about.


It's your grandmother. Yes. Yes. And there's a whole probably separate conversation to be had here about how we got from tribes to bigger tribes to cities to states to being able to act as a country. Right. Our ability to identify with larger and larger groups to identify ourselves within larger and larger groups. That's a probably a different conversation. But it but it's I think it's really important when it comes to empathy, as you just described. So this might be slightly a bit of a curveball, but one of the key traits of more rebels is thinking that their actions will have an impact.


Right. Thinking that it's going to make a difference. Can you help us think through the impact that learned helplessness and explanatory style can have on becoming a moral rebel? And just, you know, I have in my mind the you know, these Republican senators once again probably have in the back of their minds that there's there's no chance that anything that they might say is going to lead to the change that they would that they would want. Right. There's no chance in their minds it's not going to make a difference.


So with that as context, feel free to extrapolate and take it whatever you want.


So I'll say two things. One, you are exactly right that in some cases it's it's not going to make a difference. So it probably became very clear to many Republican senators that there were not going to be 17 Republican senators to convict. So then does it really matter if there are five or seven or 10 or 16? Right. It really it doesn't actually matter. So why am I going to put my neck out and why am I going to do that?


But I think one of the key things, and this is something I continue to grapple with is you are going to have to face your children. You are going to have to face your grandchildren. And one of the things that I continually think about is what would I want to say to my children about my vote? What would I want to say to my children, my grandchildren, about my vote? Who do I want to be in that moment?


So I think one thing and I think, you know, Mitt Romney answered that question in a particular way and and not just once, that he wanted to be able to say to his children, his grandchildren, of which there are, of course, many this is this is what I did. So I think there are times in which doing the right thing, even if it won't matter at all, feels important and it feels important even if you're not going to ultimately make a difference.


You want to know for your own sake. You want to know for your own sake that it matters. And so so No. One, I like to believe that there are people who want to say, yeah, it is not going to make a difference, it is not going to change anything. But it is important to me to be on the right side of this line. And and I think there is actual real value in that. So so that's one, too.


We also don't know when there is going to be a tipping point. We do not know when there is going to be a tipping point. So. I am struck and there's a wonderful graphic from The New York Times, I think it was maybe it was June 10th, June 14, something like that. Twenty twenty in which it looked at support for the Black Lives Matter movement. And it looked at the massive increase basically in the week or two following George Floyds death, and which you saw all of a sudden it became no longer sort of fringe super liberal that many white Americans were saying, wait, I support I support Black Lives Matter.


And and to me, that was a real moment. And I'll say again that you don't know what that tipping point is going to be. Right. And so sometimes and I'm going to think back to there was a moment last June in which a lot of people, many, many people posted a black square black out Tuesday. Maybe you remember that sort of movement. Then there was kind of a backlash that, you know, that's like inadequate. That's not enough.


That's not enough for you. You got this black square up there. That is not enough. But here's what's so interesting. We talked about earlier, starting to identify with President Trump and going to the Capitol and doing and we talked about it leading to leading to 450 volts. It can happen the same way, so maybe you've never done anything, and I and I bet this would be true for a whole lot of people who put that black square up.


Right. Maybe you have never publicly said I support Black Lives Matter. All of a sudden you put that square up and, oh, my gosh, I'm out.


Yeah, and I do that. You know what?


Maybe then I'm going to send a little donation to the George Floyd Fund, or maybe I'm going to go to a protest because now my behavior is going to be consistent with previous behavior and it's going to get a little easier.


Cognitive dissonance theory. Yeah, consistency theory.


Right. Cellini's point. So maybe, you know what?


Post that black square, because you know what that black square is, is a step in the right direction. That black square is a step in the right direction. And so, again, it doesn't have to be this big courageous movement. Bad behavior goes down a bad slippery slope. Good behavior can start the same way.


You know, the first thing that you answered with in this question, it made me think of the the Cooper Union speech, Lincoln's Cooper Union speech, which obviously is where we launched the Lincoln Project a long time ago, a long time ago.


It's, you know, his speech and I've talked about this several times on the podcast, it wasn't about convincing people that slavery was wrong. It was about convincing them to do something about it, even though it might cost them an election. Right. The quote is not right. Makes might. That's not the that's not the entirety of the quote. He said, let us have faith that right. Makes might and in that faith led us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.


The part that always gets cut off is the let us have faith part. Faith is not the same thing as this is a this is a hard and fast rule. Right. We are going to choose to believe this thing and we're going to choose to believe that it matters and we're going to do the hard thing, even though we might suffer negative consequences as a result.


Feel like that's really key. Yeah, exactly. That's right. That's right. Right. Yeah.


So so maybe to to put a bow on this conversation. You know, I wanted to I wanted to give people an idea of what they should look for in in their leaders, obviously. What what, what they should look for and the people around them, what we should look for in our leaders. And and I think, you know, maybe this this this characteristic of being a moral rebel is it is far more one of the most important things that you can look for in a leader regardless of their policy positions.


Because if you're able to do this even before you're in, for example, elected office. Right. You would want to see this in in school teachers, in police officers, in basically this is a trait you would want to cultivate everywhere in your community before you're a sitting United States senator. And the stakes are at the top right there, as high as they can possibly be. Because if you haven't cultivated that ability, that skill, that whatever you want to call it, that trait, by then you're probably not going to have it by the time you reach that that level.


I mean, that's just the way I'm thinking about it.


It's definitely right. I mean, the analogy that I often use and I speak relatively often to high schools and colleges, the example that I use is that no one says I'm going to run a marathon on Saturday.


Yeah, right. Right. I'm going to just sign up and get my bed. And there I am. Right. No one decides to run a marathon and a week later they're running the marathon. How do you run a marathon? Well, you run a five K and you run a 10K and you whatever. And so, yeah, you can't become you know, you don't get elected and become a moral rebel. That right. I mean, it'd be a lot easier if that were, in fact the case that I'd be great and you wouldn't have a podcast and write and write and I wouldn't be talking to you.


But but you don't. You don't. And so the issue is you practice you practice being a moral rebel. And if you can practice those skills when you're in high school, you can practice those skills. When you're in college, you can practice those skills. And again, these skills are all around us. They are skills. When you are at the Thanksgiving dinner table and your great uncle said something homophobic and you're like, well, you know, he's old, he's probably not going to change his view.


I'll just I'll just be quiet. And this happens when you're in a locker room and somebody says something misogynistic and this happens when you are on a crowded bus in Boston and this happens when you're sitting around in a department meeting and somebody says something problematic and you don't call it out. And so the issue is we develop our skills in being a moral rebel from practicing being a moral rebel. And that's why we got to start practicing. Before I let you go, where can people find you?


Oh, well, so I am on Instagram at Sanderson speaking, I have a website, Sandersons speaking Dotcom, where people can hear various talks I've given, including a talk on moral rebels.


And I'm on Twitter at Sanderson Speaks and they can find the TED talk at your website and they can find the TED talk, which I think is called the psychology of inaction.


And of course, all of the research that you and I have discussed is detailed in depth in my book, Why We Act Turning Bystanders into Moral Rebels, which is available and independent bookstores. I always say first, but also is available on Amazon.


Fine books are sold. Exactly. Exactly, exactly. Catherine, thank you so much for joining me.


This was delightful conversation.


Well, as you can tell, I love talking about psychology, so thank you for the opportunity to share some of the fascinating findings in the field of psychology. And again, I'm hoping people got real practical strategies they can use moving forward.


Absolutely. Thank you to everyone at home or on the go for listening, if you have questions or advice for us, you can reach us at podcast at Political Egholm. As I've mentioned a couple of times, Political Junkie is a completely independent organization. Our entire team is ridiculously energized by the prospect of changing and expanding and evolving how we think about politics. But we really need your support to keep it going. Many of you have been with us for such a long time that we owe you a tremendous thanks for sticking with us through growth and change and renewal.


We have a lot of exciting stuff planned, like the redistricting series we've already started and an extended special series on the origins and consequences and future of Kuhnen. We're thinking through creating membership options with episode transcripts and bonus content for listeners who want to dove even deeper into these conversations. But in order for us to keep building together, we need your support right now. If you find this work valuable, you want it to continue. And most importantly, if you want to be a part of making it happen, we would really appreciate you pitching in.


What you can just visit our Web site, Politico, Dotcom and click contribute. There's a link in the show notes today on behalf of the political team, you have our sincere thanks and we're all thrilled that you're with us on this journey. I'm Ron Suslow. This is Politico. I'll see you in the next episode.