Moral behavior in animals

Recently came through following interesting video where a monkey angrily rejects unequal pay:

[W]e did a study in which capuchin monkeys received either a grape or a piece of cucumber for a simple task.

If both monkeys got the same reward, there never was a problem. Grapes are by far preferred (as real primates, like us, they go for sugar content), but even if both received cucumber, they’d perform the task many times in a row.

However, if they received different rewards, the one who got the short end of the stick would begin to waver in its responses, and very soon start a rebellion by either refusing to perform the task or refusing to eat the cucumber.

This is an “irrational” response in the sense that if profit-maximizing is what life (and economics) is about, one should always take what one can get. Monkeys will always accept and eat a piece of cucumber whenever we give it to them, but apparently not when their partner is getting a better deal. In humans, this reaction is known as “inequity aversion

Here’s a full talk from de Waal at Ted, where he shares some surprising results of behavioral tests on primates and other mammals, which show how many moral traits like empathy and cooperation all of us share. Talk was recorded 4 November 2011.

So the next time you feel you’re being unfairly compensated, or feel the broader sting of income inequality, you can say to your friends, “I feel just like a monkey who’s been given a cucumber while the monkey next door got a grape,” and thanks to Frans de Waal they will know what you are talking about.





Should you live for your résumé or your eulogy?


The opening of this TEDTalk caught my attention and was the main reason, why I watched the entire presentation:

“So I’ve been thinking about the difference between the resume virtues and the eulogy virtues. The resume virtues are the ones you put on your resume, which are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that get mentioned in the eulogy, which are deeper: who are you, in your depth, what is the nature of your relationships, are you bold, loving, dependable, consistency? And most of us, including me, would say that the eulogy virtues are the more important of the virtues. But at least in my case, are they the ones that I think about the most? And the answer is no.”

Our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light.

Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys. Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet.


A Manifesto for Introverts

In her well-renowned and highly influential book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain provides following list of statements as a manifesto for introverts:

  1. There’s a word for ‘people who are in their heads too much’: thinkers.
  2. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
  3. The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
  4. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend extrovert. There will always be time to be quiet later.
  5. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is key to finding work you love and work that matters.
  6. One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
  7. It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
  8. ‘Quiet leadership’ is not an oxymoron.
  9. Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
  10. ‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world.’ -Mahatma Gandhi”

Source: The Quiet Revolution Manifesto

Excellent advice. As a fan of solitude and its ability to fuel the imagination and act as a catalyst for creativity, this manifesto deserves generous use and dissemination. I also strongly recommend her book.

Bonus: Listen following TedTalk from Susan Cain on The power of introverts:

Solitude matters, and for some people it is the air that they breathe. — Susan Cain

Destination Disease

The formula is clear: work harder, then you’ll be successful, then you’ll be happier.

A lot of us unknowingly suffer from a disease known as “destination disease”, the most common symptom is the belief that when we achieve a goal, meet the right person, pay off their loans, graduate from school, make a certain amount of money, etc., we will be happy.

“When our happiness is based on a destination or lack there of, we put ourselves in a position where we can never be happy until we “arrive”. – KC Cupp

This disease which disguises itself as the ever tantalizing “bigger, better, and faster” trap, is a tragic way to live. Why? Because bigger, better, and faster are constantly moving.

It actually undermines the development potential because it manipulates you into thinking that you’ll only grow and gain when you arrive at a certain place. Yet the things that add the greatest value to your life and develop the richness of both your personality and potential are found in the process of life.

Well known American novelist, Ursula K Le Guin makes this statement, “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

In the book The Happiness Advantage” author Shawn Achor explains how he spent over a decade researching at Harvard University, on one of the largest studies of happiness ever completed.

  • One of the key findings in Shawn Achor’s research was that happiness fuels success, not the other way around.
  • This study shows when we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, resilient, and productive at work and in life.
  • So our level of happiness and the key to living our best life today comes down to how we internalize our external circumstances.

It’s the old glass half full or half empty syndrome.

The things that add the greatest value to you are found in the process of life.

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