Empirically speaking, does the experience of compassion toward one person measurably affect our actions and attitudes toward other people? If so, are there practical steps we can take to further cultivate this feeling? Recently, my colleagues and I conducted experiments that answered yes to both questions.
Fundamentally people behave in a social and rather compassionate and “good” way rather than aggressively, even without specified rules. That is the result of a study from the Institute for Science of Complex Systems at the MedUni Vienna under the leadership of Stefan Thurner and Michael Szell. They analysed the behaviour of more than 400,000 participants of the “Virtual Life” game “Pardus” on the Internet. The findings are that only two percent of all actions are aggressive, even though the game would make it easy for war-like attacks with spaceships, for example.
In 1985, decades after he first started flying, [Stan] Brock went the extra step and started a nonprofit, Remote Area Medical. Since then, the all-volunteer group has held more than 660 medical clinics worldwide, providing free health care to half a million people.
They call it a modern-day “tent of Abraham,” a group of four cost-free restaurants—three in Brooklyn and one in Queens, New York—where indigent Jews in need of kosher meals can sit at small, cloth-covered tables and be served by waiters five nights a week.
“I’ve always felt health care is a human right,” said Dr. Lars Osterberg, co-medical director of the Arbor Free Clinic, a Sunday-only center run entirely by Stanford medical students and faculty. “In this country, we don’t have that right, so when I was in med school, I vowed to do something to provide it – at least for a few patients.”
We are a fundamentally empathic species . . . Social scientists are reexamining human history from an empathic lens and, in the process, discovering previously hidden strands of the human narrative which suggests that human evolution is measured not only by the expansion of power over nature, but also by the intensification and extension of empathy to more diverse others across broader temporal and spatial domains.