Helper’s High

The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, or CCARE, is part of Stanford’s School of Medicine. It was established and directed by Dr. James Doty, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery, with the explicit goal of “promoting, supporting, and conducting rigorous scientific studies of compassion and altruistic behavior.”

“James Doty’s Helper’s High” (Nautilus, 15 May 2014) takes a look at the unlikely sequence of events that made Doty into a promoter and benefactor of compassion research. It also provides some surprising insights as to whether humans are naturally disposed to help one another, and how helpful a stranger might reward us.

As Doty sees it, the big picture of compassion can be summarized, “We have to go from this viewpoint that our family is defined by our mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle – [desk thump] – to saying the world is my home. And not be overwhelmed by that, to have a sense of open-heartedness about that. That’s what’s going to save our humanity.”