David Brooks Defines The New ‘Social Animal’
March 07, 2011
David Brooks has covered some of the most significant events in recent time.
Looking at the effects of these events from a broader view, Brooks began to think that perhaps other people besides policymakers — such as scientists, philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists — were the ones who had real insight on how people thrive, and what causes failure on such a large scale.
In Washington, D.C., which Brooks calls “the most emotionally avoidant city on Earth,” Brooks notes that decisions are made based on the assumption that people are cold, rationalistic individuals who respond to incentives.
Those assumptions didn’t quite match what the research in other fields began to illustrate, however.
“Scientists, philosophers and others were developing a more accurate view of human nature, which is that emotion is more important than reason, that we’re not individuals — we’re deeply interconnected,” Brooks says. “And most importantly … most of our thinking happens below the level of awareness.”
Instead of relying on rational decisions, Brooks says, people tend to be influenced by their underlying, unconscious emotional state, which is in turn influenced by the social relationships surrounding them. For example, Brooks has covered education reform for 20 years and writes that he has seen little improvement from multitudinous policy changes.
“The reality of education is that people learn from people they love. But if you mention the word love at a congressional hearing, they look at you like you’re Oprah,” he says.
[related: https://franzcalvo.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/kids-dont-learn-from-people-they-dont-like ]
Brooks emphasizes that what really matters in people’s lives today is how they relate to one another.
Scientists can now study an 18-month-old child interacting with his or her mother and predict with 77 percent accuracy whether the child will graduate from high school.
While Brooks cautions against letting these early signs determine a child’s future, as mentors or other strong relationships can intervene along the way, he stresses the importance of looking at the impact that emotional relationships have on our lives from the very beginning.
The most successful groups, he says, are the ones who take turns having a conversation and are good at signaling each other.
[related: https://franzcalvo.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/enhance-your-resilience ]