3601 Lyon St.
San Francisco, California 94123

Special Program Series: Goodness! Generosity & the Science of Altruism

Holidays are a time to celebrate and encourage generosity. Yet helping others is a behavior that exists throughout the year and is deeply rooted in our psychology. How do acts of kindness impact our emotions? What is the relationship between giving and community? This holiday season, we look at the social and biological aspects of altruism and offer fun and creative ways to give. This event series runs through January 10, 2009.

Discuss the evolution of cooperation with anthropologist Karthik Panchanathan and time perspective and heroism with psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo. Explore generosity in children with anthropologist Dr. Joan Silk, and learn about raising kind kids with the Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, Dr. Christine Carter. Meet KickStart and Kiva, local nonprofits helping individuals out of poverty around the world, and get creative with your own generosity by writing story-gifts and wish-poems, making books, building toys, and more! Watch for details at http://calendar.exploratorium.edu.

Goodness in the World: Local Nonprofits with a Global Impact
1:00–4:00 p.m. in the Skylight area & The Phyllis C. Wattis Webcast Studio
Many aid groups work to improve the lives of the poor by building schools, upgrading sanitation systems, and other large development initiatives—but these projects are often neglected once funding ends. What makes such projects sustainable? When is giving most effective? Meet representatives from local nonprofits KickStart and Kiva to find out how smaller-scale solutions can have worldwide impacts. Test out KickStart’s pedal-powered irrigation pump and learn how Kiva helps anyone become a microfinance lender to support real people working toward better lives.

KickStart helps people out of poverty by promoting sustainable economic growth and employment creation in Kenya, Mali, and Tanzania. They develop technologies, such as irrigation pumps and oilseed presses, to be used by entrepreneurs to establish and run profitable, small-scale enterprises. In addition, KickStart’s technologies, expertise, and methods are used throughout Africa to support programs in agriculture, shelter, water, sanitation, health, and relief. Learn more at www.kickstart.org.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world. Once lenders find and select an entrepreneur from their site, Kiva collects the funds and passes them along a microfinance partner, who then distributes the funds to the entrepreneur directly (often providing training and assistance in the process). Over time, the entrepreneur repays the loan and lenders get their money back. Get more information at www.kiva.org.

Sunday, November 23
Act On It! Performing and Writing Acts of Kindness
11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. & 2:00–4:00 p.m. in the IFI Classroom

Generosity is a value celebrated around the world. What does it mean to you? How would you put kindness into words? Give voice to gratitude in this kid-friendly, creative workshop hosted by poet, performer, and educator Susan Terence. During this two-hour program, we’ll perform an Andean folktale on helping others and write our own giving poems or stories. We’ll then transform these gifts and wishes into handmade books. Become a poet, storyteller, bookmaker, and actor—all in one day!

For ages 7 and up. Limited capacity; to register, email [email protected]. Please specify which session you prefer and include your name, telephone number, email, and number of participants.

Susan Terence is a poet-teacher with California Poets in the Schools and the De Young and Legion of Honor museums and a performer with Young Audiences of the Bay Area. She has received two San Francisco Unified School District Creative Writing Teacher of the Year Awards and has won several prizes for her writings, which have appeared in publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle, the Bay Guardian, and the Southern Poetry Review.

Sunday, December 7
A Conversation on Time Perspective and Everyday Heroism with Dr. Philip Zimbardo
2:00 p.m. in the McBean Theater

One of the most powerful influences on our everyday decisions is our perception of time—the way our minds partition the flow of experience into past, present, and future. For many reasons, people of different cultures, social classes, ages, and geographies focus on one zone at the expense of others. In this special presentation, psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo weighs the costs and benefits of privileging one sense of time over others and offers insights on adopting a more flexible and balanced time perspective.

In addition, Dr. Zimbardo discusses the importance of cultivating a heroic imagination both in our youth and ourselves. If most heroes are ordinary people, what influences them to act in extraordinary ways—to make sacrifices or take risks on behalf of others or a moral cause? How can we become heroes-in-waiting, ready to act when needed?

Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized scholar, educator, and researcher. A Stanford University professor since 1968, his career is noted for giving psychology away to the public through his popular PBS-TV series Discovering Psychology and many books including The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (2007) and The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life (2008). He is a former president of the American Psychological Association and has twice served as president of the Western Psychological Association. He is currently the executive director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Policy, Education, and Research on Terrorism (CIPERT).

Capacity is limited. Advance registration is strongly recommended for both Members and the general public. To register, please send an email listing the names in your party to [email protected]. This presentation is included in the price of museum admission.

Saturday, December 13
Goodness! Generosity and the Science of Altruism
Divided We Stand: Understanding the Evolution of Cooperation
A Conversation with Karthik Panchanathan
2:00 p.m. in the McBean Theater

All of us have intuitions about and experiences with altruism. Are humans really altruistic, or do we help others merely to further our self-interest? Is altruism a specifically human phenomenon? Join evolutionary anthropologist Karthik Panchanathan to discuss the ways in which our capacity for helping others is investigated across scientific disciplines. Learn how different fields study altruism and where cultural notions of fairness diverge. Find out how research on everything from chickens to economics informs our understanding of altruistic behavior—and how using models and game theory might help us understand why individuals sacrifice for others.

During the presentation, we’ll re-create an experiment designed to investigate aspects of fairness around the world. With participants including university undergraduates, Amazonian hunter-gatherers, and Highland New Guineans, this research suggests that people may share some basic notions of fairness—with a few notable cross-cultural differences.

Karthik Panchanathan is currently writing his dissertation in evolutionary anthropology at UCLA. For his research on the evolution of human cooperation and culture, he draws from anthropology, evolutionary biology, economics, and psychology to investigate questions involving the mechanisms underlying human cooperation and competition and the ways in which our capacities for learning and cultural transmission change the rules when it comes to evolution and adaptation. To find out more, go to http://buddha.bol.ucla.edu.

On Good Behavior: Exploring the Biological Roots of Caring and Sharing with Dr. Joan Silk at 1:00 p.m.

We routinely help strangers by giving blood, volunteering, donating to charities, and caring for children who are not our own. None of these behaviors appear to increase our ability as individuals to survive; in fact, they seem to contradict ideas of natural selection. Or do they? Is there an evolutionary basis to human goodness? Meet primatologist Dr. Joan Silk and discover what the social behaviors of baboons and bonnet macaques tell us about our own altruistic tendencies—such as why we seek to foster kindness and sharing in children, and why we love our grandmothers.

A professor of biological anthropology at UCLA, Dr. Joan Silk studies how natural selection has shaped the evolution of social behavior in primates. She is interested in researching the roots of reconciliation, cooperation, friendship, paternal investment, and the origins of prosocial sentiments—such as helping and comforting one another—that play a crucial role in human societies. She is the coauthor of How Humans Evolved (2006), a textbook designed for use in introductory classes in human evolution and biological anthropology.

Saturday, January 10 2009
The Science and Art of Raising Kind Kids
with the Greater Good Science Center
2:00 p.m. in the McBean Theater
If raising kind kids were a science, what might the tools and methods look like? What motivates children to be caring or generous? In this interactive presentation, Dr. Christine L. Carter presents the latest in behavioral and social scientific findings along with practical tips for raising kind kids. The mother of two and the Executive Director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/), Carter will share research, offer tools, and empower parents, teachers, and caregivers with the knowledge they need to instill altruism in children.

Note: this presentation is geared toward parents and caregivers, not family groups. Please plan accordingly.

Christine Carter, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and a sociologist who studies the childhood roots of happiness. She writes the blog Half Full: Science for Raising Happy Kids and has been quoted in American Baby and Parenting magazines, Boston Globe, The New York Times, and dozens of other publications. She has two children and lives with her family near San Francisco.

Greater Good Science Center is an interdisciplinary research center that promotes the study of happiness, compassion, and altruism. Dedicated to “translating” the science of a meaningful life into practical tips for the general public—and getting that information into the hands of the people who can best put it to use—the GGSC publishes the quarterly magazine Greater Good and an online parenting website dedicated to the science of raising happy kids (http://greatergoodparents.org).

Official Website: http://www.exploratorium.edu

Added by ExplOratorium SF on October 20, 2008

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