Month: March 2010

  • Cooperation: Rewarding, Contagious, & Cascading

    We see evidence of conflict and competition all around us. It seems inevitable and depressing. So, the question that remains is – why does cooperation exist at all? Well, science is now coming out with exciting discoveries about the nature and spread of cooperation that may paint a more uplifting and hopeful picture.

    A Biological Basis for Cooperation:

    Using the latest technology, brain imaging experiments at Emory University have now revealed a biological basis for cooperation. These studies show, for the first time, that social cooperation is intrinsically rewarding to the human brain, even in the face of pressures to the contrary. This suggests that the altruistic drive to cooperate is embedded in humans – either genetically programmed or acquired through socialization. In other words, reciprocal altruism activates a reward circuit that motivates us to persist with cooperative social interactions. These results also suggest possible ways to study conflict by …

  • The Biology of Forgiveness

    Recent studies are coming out with interesting findings on forgiveness. In one area of research, science is showing how forgiveness can help humans become more healthy and happy, and how holding on to anger leads to emotional and physical deterioration. Another area of research is exploring the possibility that humans are biologically wired for forgiveness, that it is just as normal as our revenge instinct, leaving up to us the choice of which to nurture.

    One pioneer in the study of forgiveness is Dr. Frederic Luskin, the co-founder and director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects, where he developed his research-tested “Nine Steps to Forgiveness” training methodology. His research, as well as others’ research, has consistently shown that forgiveness increases physical vitality, optimism, hope, compassion, and self-confidence while reducing anger, blood pressure, hurt, depression, and stress.  In his work as co-director of the Stanford-Northern Ireland HOPE Project, he has successfully

  • Youth working to break down stereotypes


    Since 2003, the organization Kreuzberg Initiative Against Antisemitism has been working to dispel stereotypes and prejudices amongst Muslims against Jews. It is based in the Kreuzberg neighborhood in Berlin which is mainly populated by Muslims—including immigrants of Kurdish, Turkish and Asiatic origin as well as Palestinians—and were there were many manifestations of Muslim anti-Semitism in the past.

    The group involves youth who organize and participate in workshops throughout schools and youth centers where they use activities—such as role playing—to raise awareness and break down stereotypes.

    Maja, a Muslim of Syrian descent who was born and raised in Berlin, joined the organization after experiencing intolerance within her own Muslim community. She says:

    “In my view, there are two sets of problems. On the one hand, Muslims are confronted with prejudices, such as the idea that they are fundamentalists or traditionally backward.  On the other hand, Muslim groups, especially young people, are

  • Islam’s new kartinis – March: Valerie Khan Yusufzai, chair, Acid Survivors Foundation of Pakistan

    Dear readers,

    Welcome to the “Islam’s new Kartinis” series here on! As explained in my last post, this column will focus on Muslim women from around the world who work to bring positive incremental change to their communities and beyond. This month, we’re featuring Valerie Khan Yusufzai, chairperson of the Acid Survivors Foundation of Pakistan.


     Raquel: Have you always been interested in human rights work?

    Valerie:  I grew up in a family where the ideas of freedom, thoughtfulness and fighting for what you believe is right were very much present. My great-grandparents resisted against the Germans in the First World War. My great-grandfather even received the Legion D’Honneur for excellent military conduct. This is the highest distinction for a French soldier. My grandfather, at age 19, joined the clandestine French forces to fight the Nazis during the Second World War.  His legacy is a gift to …