Tag Archives: Biology

Your Brain on Swine Flu

The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley

by Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why and a contributor to TIME Magazine.

One of the strange things about influenza pandemics is that they happen in slow motion, giving us time to reflect.
Looking back, it’s clear that one major challenge was (and will be) striking the elusive balance between reasonable mobilization and overreaction. We want people to wash their hands and stay home when they are sick; we don’t want people to stone buses carrying a sick passenger from another country.

How do we dial up—or down—our response to a pandemic in real time? It might help to shape public warnings and communication according to how the brain actually works. Continue reading

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Filed under Author Essays

Is Empathy Hardwired?

The Age of Empathy by Dr. Frans De Waal

The Age of Empathy by Dr. Frans De Waal

World-renown primatologist Dr. Frans De Waal’s new book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, draws upon decades of research and study, considering such fundamental questions as: Do we have an instinct for compassion?  Or is everything we do motivated simply by innate self-interest?

The book has received a lot of interest; most recently, the Wall Street Journal published an interesting review accompanied by compelling video and images, and the Los Angeles Times pondered the book’s central argument in light of all of the recent negative events (i.e. the War on Terror, the financial meltdown, the ongoing unrest in the Middle East) triggered by humans at the dawn of this still very new century.

You can read an excerpt here, and visit the author’s website for more information.

So what do you think of this newest chapter in the nature versus nurture debate?  Is empathy really hardwired?  If so, what does that mean for us?


Filed under From the Moderator