Learning about the evolution of compassion and empathy
Why are we seeing such high rates of bullying at GTA schools, especially in the form of cyber bullying, at the moment? There may have always been bullying but the rise and degree of cyber bullying happening now is beyond what previous generations of children have experienced. What about the internet has allowed children to become so mean and aggressive to each other and is there is a way to increase empathy and compassion students have for each other to help lower the rates of bullying?
Primate Tales has come up with a novel program, to use in conjunction with the guidance departments at GTA elementary and high schools, that discusses the evolution of compassion and empathy among ourselves and our mammal relatives. The program is aimed for students in grade 7 and up. Through showing students the reasons why traits like altruism, compassion and eventually empathy evolved in humans, Primate Tales teaches students the real consequences humans faced if they were mean to or cheated the other individuals in their small hunter-gatherer groups. No one would cooperate with you if they knew you were going to cheat and therefore you would lose out on access to food and rescues that were needed to survive.
With the advent of the internet and anonymous communication the consequences for this type of behaviour have been removed, allowing individuals to face no ill effects from sending mean tweets or emails to others. However the consequences to the individuals facing these bullying behaviours are real and can be devastating. Even though we are constantly connected through social media we are more separate from each other than ever before. We hid behind our phones so we don’t have to communicate face to face with each other and face the possible consequences of our rude behaviour. Our cultural evolution has increased at such a fast rate that our biological evolution and how we are biologically wired is taking a long time to catch up, resulting in dysevolution.
The Primate Tales evolution of compassion program is different from other anti-bullying programs because it uses biology and science to explain why traits like compassion and empathy have evolved and why these traits were essential to our survival. Students may not understand how crucial it is to engage is these behaviours and how detrimental it can be to engage in hateful, mean and aggressive ways. By combining the science with hands on, interactive activities our program provides students with the tools they need to understand their actions on the internet have consequences and how to alter their behaviour towards more compassionate ends.
Loved this post? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for updates and all the latest STEM education, primate and evolution news. You can also check out our program offerings and book your own Primate Tales program