Daniel Golemen, Social Intelligence wrote:The argument has long been made that we humans are by nature compassionate and empathic despite the occasional streak of meanness, but torrents of bad news throughout history have contradicted that claim, and little sound science has backed it. But try this thought experiment. Imagine the number of opportunities people around the world today might have to commit an antisocial act, from rape or murder to simple rudeness and dishonesty. Make that number the bottom of a fraction. Now for the top value you put the number of such antisocial acts that will actually occur today.
That ratio of potential to enacted meanness holds at close to zero any day of the year. And if for the top value you put the number of benevolent acts performed in a given day, the ratio of kindness to cruelty will always be positive. (The news, however, comes to us as though that ratio was reversed.)
Harvard's Jerome Kagan proposes this mental exercise to make a simple point about human nature: the sum total of goodness vastly outweighs that of meanness. “Although humans inherit a biological bias that permits them to feel anger, jealousy, selfishness and envy, and to be rude, aggressive or violent,” Kagan notes, “they inherit an even stronger biological bias for kindness, compassion, cooperation, love and nurture – especially toward those in need.” This inbuilt ethical sense, he adds, “is a biological feature of our species.”
I came across this quote awhile back and it's had me thinking.
Although the ratio of kind "acts" to cruel "acts" will always be positive, does this majority of kind "acts" make up for the cruel ones. e.g. How many kind "acts" does it take to make up for one murder? Can you truly quantify a value to actions relative to one another?
On a side note, the above quote mentions the media and its fascination with cruel actions. Why is it that human beings prefer hearing about "cruel" acts? Mirror neurons in our brain respond to actions when we see them. So when you watch someone throw a baseball, the same part of your brain you would use to throw a baseball shows activity. From this studies have shown that looking at happy people can make you happier. So, one can only conclude that this focus on negativity brings us down as a race.