The Age Of Empathy Book Summary By Frans de Waal

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The Age of Empathy, written by renowned author and scientist Frans De Waal in 2009, is a book that examines the idea that people are not as selfish, ruthless and prone to violence as popular theories suggest.

Drawing on evidence from biology, history and science, this book demonstrates that we are just as capable of cooperation, peace and empathy as we are of the less desirable traits.

This book provides an insightful look into human behavior and how our fundamental nature can influence our actions.

The Age Of Empathy Book

Book Name: The Age of Empathy (Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society)

Author(s): Frans de Waal

Rating: 4.2/5

Reading Time: 14 Minutes

Categories: Science

Author Bio

Frans de Waal is an eminent primatologist and professor at Emory University.

His extensive list of works includes some of the most renowned books published on primates, such as Primates and Philosophers, Our Inner Ape, and Chimpanzee Politics.

Furthermore, his caliber as a leading expert in this field was further regarded when he was included in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People list back in 2007 - that's how you know his expertise is top notch!

He has now added 'The Age of Empathy' to his portfolio; so if you're looking for insights into the perspective of animal behavior and how it relates to our own human social behaviour, pick up a copy of this book and give it an insightful read!

Explore The Power Of Empathy: How Our Most Basic Human Instinct May Be What Has Kept Us Alive And Evolving

Power Of Empathy

The Age of Empathy by author and philosopher Michael Tomasello shows us that at the heart of human nature is an inborn sense of empathy, not a desire to harm one another.

What truly drives us, it turns out, is our need for connection with each other.

This has informed our intuitions about survival and kept us alive as a species for centuries.

Throughout this book, Tomasello reveals how this universal empathy is exhibited through different ways.

From the story of Jericho’s walls to the “herd instinct” which drives people to belong to tribes, The Age of Empathy unpacks the complexities of human nature and gives us insight into why we act and behave the way we do.

It even dives further into the subtle signs that can tell you how long a couple has been together!

From historical references to modern day studies, The Age of Empathy ultimately gives readers an opportunity to explore the power and beauty of humanity’s universal empathy.

The Myth Of Human Greed: How Misunderstandings Of Our Nature Led To Failures In Business, Politics And Culture

There is a popular misconception that humanity is primarily concerned with its own well-being.

This idea can be seen in political and cultural theories, the philosophy of Social Darwinism and even in pop culture: “Greed is good,” as Michael Douglas’s character declares in the 1987 movie, Wall Street.

However, this view of human nature as fundamentally selfish is misguided.

Such ideas have been instrumental in maintaining the defunct belief that people are incapable of thinking beyond themselves – a false notion perpetuated by influential figures such as John D.

Rockefeller, Jr., who proclaimed the expansion of big business at the expense of smaller companies was simply “the working out of a law of nature”.

This misunderstanding sadly found its way into the business world in environments like ENRON, whose operational mantra was to use fear and greed to further their bottom line.

This cold-hearted approach created an oppressive atmosphere for their employees (which included a ‘Rank & Yank’ system where 20% were fired annually) and unjustly raised energy costs in pursuit of profits.

The consequences were severe when this flawed understanding of human nature backfired – ENRON filed for bankruptcy after their practices were exposed to the public.

In conclusion, there is no evidence that suggests humans are inherently driven by selfish motives; rather, it’s easy to see examples where what motivates us most is our common quest for empathy and connection with one another.

The Real Story Of Human History: Long Stretches Of Peace Interrupted By Episodes Of Violence

Throughout history, stories about war and violence have been common.

But contrary to what you might expect, our ancestors lived in a peaceful world for a large part of history.

In fact, research suggests that the walls of Jericho weren’t built for defensive purposes, but rather as protection from mudflows.

Human populations were also small and widely dispersed in the early days of human culture, meaning that periods of organized warfare were infrequent interruptions during peaceful times.

We’ve only seen an increase in militaries since modern times, when large numbers of people started living together and following herd instincts.

This isn’t to say that all humans are non-violent by nature or that peace reigns over all actions–we’re still capable of terrible deeds when given the opportunity.

However, it’s important to remember that warfare and organized combat aren’t inevitable parts of the human experience; generally, we prefer coordinated activities like chanting, singing and dancing.

From this perspective it’s clear that warfare hasn’t always been part of our history.

The Unconscious Synchrony Of Our Herd Instinct Is What Connects Us And Ensures Our Survival

Unconscious Synchrony

The concept of interconnectedness is something that has been observed in many species – both humans and animals.

This is usually referred to as the “herd instinct” or “unconscious synchrony”.

This can be seen in action when yawning; it’s contagious with humans and among other animals as well.

For example, a group of apes being shown video footage of yawning chimpanzees began to collectively yawn as well.

The same herd instinct can be found in birds flying in formation, or migrating animals needing to stick together when they stop to eat and rest during their long journeys.

But this instinct also plays into our social interactions too.

We may not consciously realize it, but we pick up on subtle signals from others around us such as body language and small mimicries of our own actions that make us connect more with others emotionally.

Studies have even shown that people are more likely to give good tips if their waiter mimics them in a subtle way!

Ultimately, the herd instinct plays a vital role in the bonding experienced by both humans and animals alike.

It fosters trust between individuals which further strengthens our social connections with them.

Humans Need Intimate Relationships And Social Connections To Thrive

The Age of Empathy book explains that humans have a natural need to bond with one another.

We rely on social interaction for our physical and emotional happiness, as proven by decades of research.

This has been known since Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the eighteenth century who proposed the idea of a ‘social contract’ between people so that they can achieve safety and security in numbers.

Studies have also shown the impact of forming meaningful relationships, not just on our moods but on other aspects of life too such as lifespan expectancy.

It has been determined that being married leads to an increase in lifespan thanks to forming strong bonds with another person which can literally change us physically – after 25 years together couples were found to have become almost identical in appearance due to their shared experiences!

Furthermore, this physical similarity was greatest between couples who spoke about their feelings regularly.

In essence, humans need companionship for both emotional and physical wellbeing.

Biological Imperatives Undermine The Philosophy Of Behaviorism And Require Empathy For Survival

The Age of Empathy Book Summary makes it abundantly clear that when we deny our natural instincts to be nurturing, the consequences can be tragic.

John Watson’s behaviorism theory put this philosophy into practice by running experiments on little Albert, proving that we can control and condition our impulses and desires.

Unfortunately for Little Albert and many others, these attempts at control over human nature had devastating effects.

Psychologists studied orphaned children who experienced no visual stimulation or bodily contact, with disastrous results- they looked like zombies, near death’s door because they were deprived of nurturing.

It is neither possible nor wise to pretend that we have complete control over ourselves.

In fact, as mammals we have an innate biological need for maternal care, connection, and empathy in order to survive.

If we deny ourselves this basic instinctive need, it carries terrible aftermaths throughout our lives- even in adulthood!

The Natural Power Of Empathy: How The Instinct To Cooperate Helped Make Us Who We Are Today

Natural Power Of Empathy

It’s clear that empathy is fundamental to our survival and well-being.

Whether we realize it or not, chances are that we tend to show empathy naturally without needing any kind of conditioning.

After all, if it wasn’t for this natural disposition, humans wouldn’t have been able to make it through over 200 million years of evolution – especially not since parents need a sense of empathy towards their offspring in order to ensure their safety and health.

This was demonstrated in an experiment conducted by Swedish psychologist Ulf Dimberg in the 1990s which involved showing happy or sad picture faces briefly on a screen.

The participants had no way of consciously processing what they were seeing but still reacted appropriately.

This kind of reaction goes to show how powerful our instinctive sense of empathy can be as even psychopaths who naturally lack the ability to feel empathy couldn’t escape its effect.

All this goes to show just how essential empathy is not only for producing future generations but also for sustaining the ones already existing today.

It is something that does not require external reinforcement nearby but rather comes naturally to us, playing an extensive role in maintaining our species’ continuity and wellbeing.

Wrap Up

The Age of Empathy demonstrates the point that, while society tends to emphasize our proclivity toward negative behavior, the real truth is that we are hard-wired for care and giving.

We have a natural inclination to help and empathize with one another; it’s just a matter of whether or not we choose to focus on this part of ourselves.

The book shows that by doing so, we can move beyond self-interest and become a more harmonious and caring community.

In short, The Age of Empathy reminds us that living harmoniously and helping one another are aspects of our human nature that deserve to be celebrated!

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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