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How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
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Dacher Keltner, Emotions & Social Psychology


Emotions & Social Psychology

Dacher Keltner


Dacher Keltner is a Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley and director of the Greater Good Science Center. He has authored numerous books and several hundred scientific articles on the biological and evolutionary origins of compassion, humility, power, and inequality. He has won research, teaching, and service awards, and has consulted for Apple, Google, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Transcription of the video


Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant positive societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

I think it’s going to be the value that we attach to meaningful social interactions. And I think that we’ve lost sight of that. In the past 30 years, we’ve overemphasized success and material consumption and the like, and what the pandemic is teaching people is how absolutely sacred our best relationships are and the meaningful moments that we can have with people, the value of those social utilities will be much higher coming out of the pandemic.


What kind of wisdom will people need to capitalize on the positive societal and/or psychological change after the pandemic?

What you hear people saying are things like, wow, time is slowing down, I can slow down time, sometimes too much, but that’s an option that we have in our fast-paced lives. Wow, social interactions and hugging people are the most important things in my life, and I feel depressed without them, and I’ll return to that. Or I don’t need to shop and burn carbon fuels so much. I think that collectively as we move through this pandemic, this panic and this trauma, we’ll start to arrive at a set of core ethical principles like we tend to, and go forward with those more explicitly recognized.


Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant negative societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

I think that it is the suspicion of the wrong people. And you know, people have written about this. It’s this suspicion that you see in other countries, that people in health care where they’re attacked in Mexico and China. It is the suspicion of people who are different color than we are. It is this suspicion of science and the suspicion of data, that we have strong ways of understanding this epidemic that have really been undermined in the United States by, kind of this suspicion that pandemics elicit that’s very worrisome, is those three things, but I think that there’s a lot of progress that will be made out of that.


What kind of wisdom will people need to master to overcome major negative societal and/or psychological changes after the pandemic?

I think that the first thing that we’re going to really need is, is a return to the faith of our institutions that hold up society and health care institutions being most prominent and then science that really can track and math the virus. The second thing that we really need to be rethinking in terms of wisdom going forward is how we think about who’s doing the hard work, the nurses and the doctors and the people, long-term, aging facilities that are right on the front line. There are a lot of these suspicions and biases that are flaring up right now creating impediments for understanding that we’re going to have to tackle in a reasoned way.


What piece of wisdom do people need to make it through the pandemic?

One of the things that’s happened in our understanding of the pandemic is, because it’s been in the United States, where we are the worst example of adapting to this health challenge is, there has been a lot of fear and a lot of shying away from truths and a failure to understand this. As we shut down and have this period of solitude, which is hard, that people ask themselves what they’re finding really meaningful at this moment, and to develop that as they go forward. So for me, it has returned me to this more local simple life of walking with friends and family and cooking more together and, sharing sort of sources of entertainment, and understanding, and get back to what’s most local. And we do that by just asking yourself, what are the moments that really meant something to me where I teared up or I felt uplifted? And then to use those as lessons for more wisdom.

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