What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close
With rendition switcher

Transcript

Stephen Post:

When people are less focused on self and the problems of the self, there is a kind of alleviation of stress.  There’s nothing like reaching out and contributing to the lives of others to give a person, first of all a sense of significance and purpose. The idea of the helper’s high has been around since the early 1990’s.  Allen Lukes, a psychologist, had individuals going out and helping others in various ways, at low thresholds, a couple of hours of activity at a soup kitchen or helping down the block or whatever it might be.  And about half of the individuals, and this is a kind of half full/half empty paradigm, reported a feeling of elation; a kind of emotional buoyancy, if you will.  Forty-three percent reported a sense of warmth and tranquility.  Certainly many of them reported a sense of significance and meaning in life.  And interestingly, even 13 percent said they felt an alleviation of chronic aches and pains.  

Now since then, scientists have been studying this care and connection axis in human nature and know that it involves certain hormones, like oxytocin, sometimes called the compassion hormone.  Oxytocin is related not only to compassion, but also to feelings of tranquility or serenity, if you will, and also to social trust.

There’s a wonderful study that Jorge Moll, M-O-L-L, came out with several years ago down at the NIH, he had people coming off the street, just everyday folks, and he gives them a menu.  And on the menu you see a list of charities that the subject could consider contributing to.  It could be your Alma Mater High School, your Synagogue, your Church, the Alzheimer’s Association, who knows.  And of course they’re hooked up to an FMRI device which picks up activity in their brain.  When they check a box next to the particular line item that excites them, then the mesolimbic pathway gets active and that’s the deeply evolved part of the brain and the emotional part of the brain and it’s the part of the brain that’s associated with the feelings of joy that doles out feel good chemicals like dopamine, for example.  

Ands so we know, and I think this is perfectly Darwinian that we actually do have a kind of flourishing when we even think, notice this is a laboratory, so people aren’t really shelling out their dollars, but in the laboratory environment, people simply contemplate the idea of contributing to other merely on a financial level, let along a face-to-face, there is this kind of a benefit.  

More from the Big Idea for Sunday, April 24 2011

 

The Science of Compassion

Newsletter: Share: