David Brooks on the Road to Character

David Brooks on the Road to Character
Royal Geographical Society on 26th May 2015.

His book ‘The Social Animal’, a study of the unconscious mind and the triggers that drive human behaviour … David Cameron instructed all the members of his Cabinet to read it.

his latest book, ‘The Road to Character’. Brooks argued that today’s ‘Big Me’ culture is making us increasingly self-preoccupied: we live in a world where we’re taught to be assertive, to master skills, to broadcast our brand, to get likes, to get followers. But amidst all the noise of self-promotion, Brooks claimed that we’ve lost sight of an important and counterintuitive truth: that in order to fulfil ourselves we need to learn how to forget ourselves.

To make his case, Brooks distinguished two sorts of virtues: resumé virtues and eulogy virtues. Resumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace: wealth, fame, status and a great career. Eulogy virtues are the things people will say about you at your funeral: that you were honest, loving, and steadfast. Most of us would say that eulogy virtues are more important, but it’s the resumé virtues we tend to think about the most.

By interweaving politics, spirituality and psychology, and citing examples from some of history’s greatest thinkers and leaders – St. Augustine, Dwight Eisenhower and Samuel Johnson – Brooks showed that by cultivating the eulogy virtues we can create depth of character and restore balance to our lives.

<20:55 Suffering gives you empathy

49:20 they had looked at the horrors of WWII and they just wanted to turn the page

1:11:07 What’s the event that made you who you are today?
No-one ever said “Well, I took this amazing vacation in Orlando”
They usually mention a period of struggle.
Then, we shoot for happiness but we are formed by suffering and struggle.


Roleplaying as an empathy tool

Tim Brown: Tales of creativity and play
TED 2008

As we become adults, we become much more sensitive to the opinion of others. We lose creative freedom.

We don’t take much creative risk

Symbols that remain people to be playful and is a permissive environment.

Playfulness helps us to get better creative solutions

opennes: exploratory play

one of those playful activities that as we get older we tend to forget and then we have to relearn

The 30 circles test

Purdue creativity test: how many uses can you find for a paper clip

this mescaline experiment. But really, it wasn’t the drugs that were important; it was this idea that what the drugs did would help shock people out of their normal way of thinking, and getting them to forget the adult behaviors that were getting in the way of their ideas.

construction play

Can we have rules about creativity?
brainstorming rules written on the walls:
– defer judgment
– go for quantity

It’s learning by doing

16:30 designers call it “thinking with your hands”

18:30 As kids go through the school system, it all gets taken away … they loose playful building mode of thinking

18:50 think with their hands

< 19:30 film canister: prototyping medium

building play. Role play (act it out)

When children play a role they … understanding the rules for social interaction

23:08 using roleplay as a way of creating empathy
roleplaying as an empathy tool

it is this code negotiation that leads to productive play

The first step is attention training

Chade-Meng Tan: Everyday compassion
November 2010 at TEDPrize@UN

“Search Inside Yourself” — how does it work? It works in three steps.
The first step is attention training. Attention is the basis of all higher cognitive and emotional abilities.
Therefore, any curriculum for training emotion intelligence has to begin with attention training.
The idea here is to train attention to create a quality of mind that is calm and clear at the same time. And this creates the foundation for emotion intelligence.

The second step is developing self-knowledge and self-mastery.

Researchers ban their own kids from playing violent video games

It’s A Duel: How Do Violent Video Games Affect Kids?
by Shankar Vedantam
July 07, 2011

Social psychologist Brad Bushman at The Ohio State University once showed students violent pictures: one of a man shoving a gun down another man’s throat; another of a man holding a knife to a woman’s throat.
“What we found is for people who were exposed to a lot of violent video games, their brains did not respond to the violent images,” Bushman said. “They were numb, if you will.”

Bushman also had the students blast each other with loud noises.
“We try to make the noise as unpleasant as possible by thinking of every noise you hate,” Bushman said. “So like fingernails scratc hing on a chalkboard, dentist drills, sirens.”
Students could make the sound as loud as a smoke alarm, if they wanted. Some students in the experiments got really mean.

“Everybody was more aggressive if they’d played a violent game than if they’d played a nonviolent game, and the more numb they were, the more aggressive they were in terms of blasting their opponent with loud noise through headphones,” Bushman said.

Chris Ferguson, a psychologist at the Texas A&M International University

“Playing violent video games probably will not turn your child into a psychopathic killer,” Bushman said, “but I would want to know how the child treats his or her parents, how they treat their siblings, how much compassion they have.”

Bushman and Ferguson agree on one thing: as fathers, they’ve banned their own kids from playing violent video games.

we should all let our kids play those video games. “Absolutely — except my kids”


Why Adults Need Playtime

Play Doesn’t End With Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too
by Sami Yenigun
August 06, 2014

More and more research suggests that healthy playtime leads to healthy adulthood.

Childhood play is essential for brain development.
As we’ve reported this week, time on the playground may be more important than time in the classroom.

But playtime doesn’t end when we grow up. Adults need recess too.

The question is, why? To answer this question, Dr. Stuart Brown says we need to clearly define what play is. He’s head of a nonprofit called the National Institute for Play.

“Play is something done for its own sake,” he explains. “It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

So, let’s take gambling, for instance. A poker player who’s enjoying a competitive card game? That’s play, says Brown. A gambling addict whose only goal is to hit the jackpot? Not play.

Brown says that children have a lot to learn from what he calls this “state of being,” including empathy, how to communicate with others, and how to roll with the punches.

“Those kinds of resilient learning processes [are] different than what occurs in adult play,” he says. “But the harmonics of this occur in adulthood as well.”

Williams Syndrome Offers Fresh Insight into Language

Rare Disorder Offers Fresh Insight into Language
July 10, 2006

People with Williams Syndrome are elf-like in appearance.

They also have an average IQ of about 60.

their language skills seemed surprisingly good, given their low intelligence.
The disorder appeared to be the opposite of autism, in which people can have normal IQ, but few language skills.

Their motivation to talk to other people is so strong that it helps them overcome some of their initial problems with language.

To use language fully, people need sophisticated social skills that people with Williams Syndrome don’t have.
One of these is something called theory of mind. It’s the ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of the person we are talking to.

Emotional contagion -> Empathy

Emotional contagion for pain is intact in autism spectrum disorders
Translational Psychiatry (2014) 4, e343
N Hadjikhani, et al.

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have impaired social understanding, and seemingly reduced reactions to others’ emotions, which may be interpreted as lack of empathetic concern.
Empathy can be defined as ‘the ability to form an embodied representation of another’s emotional state, while at the same time being aware of the causal mechanism that induced the emotional state in the other’.
Empathy is a multicomponent process, consisting mainly of experience sharing and mental state attribution.
The evolutionary precursor of empathy is emotional contagion, a phylogenetically old phenomenon, even observable in distressed mice.
Emotional contagion is a precursor of emotional empathy, whereby embodiment entails the forming of a representation of the other person’s feelings, and thereby sharing of their experience.
In the observer, this ‘perception-action’ coupling mechanism elicits the activation of the same neural networks as in the person experiencing the emotional state.

Enhance Your Resilience

Enhance Your Resilience
Scientific American Mind. July 1, 2013

Resilience is the ability to modulate and constructively harness the stress response—a capacity essential to both physical and mental health.
Success can hinge on resilience. Setbacks are part of any endeavor, and those who react to them productively will make the most progress.
A person can boost his or her resilience. Strategies include reinterpreting negative events, enhancing positive emotions, becoming physically fit, accepting challenges, maintaining a close social network and imitating resilient role models.

There are numerous strategies for regulating emotions and enhancing resilience. Two approaches that have received increasing scientific support in recent years are:

… teach children the skills needed to become socially competent, such as: