So when we look at the world’s ills,
one of the biggest sources of it is us failing
to do the right thing when it’s the harder thing to do—giving in to temptation, giving
in to impulse.
Giving in to emotional sort of immediacy.
And the part of the brain that’s most central to whether or not that happens is
the frontal cortex.
Most recently evolved part of the brain, we’ve got more of it proportionally or more complexly
than any other primate species out there.
这是大脑中控制冲动 长期规划 情绪管理的部分
It’s the part of the brain that does impulse control, long term planning, emotional regulation.
It does all the stuff where it’s the frontal cortex that whispers in your ear saying, “Do
you really really want to do that right now?
If you do that you’re going to regret it.
It seems like a great idea.”
Frontal cortex about that.
Okay, so when we look at our moments of life where there’s that enormous temptation to
do the impulsive thing and—what’s going to determine whether the world will be freed
of impulsive horrors?
“If only we could all get stronger frontal cortices trained in childhood to be able to
hold out where you could have one marshmallow right now but if you wait you can get two
later, and training from early age so that your frontal cortex has the most like fabulous
aerobic metabolism ever, and it could just make you—“
And what the studies suggest is: at all sorts of junctures of doing the harder thing yes,
having a really robust studly frontal cortex may do you a lot of good there.
But when you do sort of the truly difficult thing, when you see people who are the ones
who run into the burning building to save the child and they leap into the river when
everybody else is standing there like headless chickens—When you look at those people they’re
not doing it because they’ve got the most amazing frontal cortexes on earth that could
reason through the long-term consequences of “oh, what if nobody in society came to
the aid of strangers?”
What they do is: they do it automatically.
You ask anybody who does one of these heroic acts what were you thinking when you jumped
in the river.
And the answer is always the same: “I wasn’t thinking.
Before I knew it I had jumped in.”
When we do our most amazingly like wondrous altruistic acts it’s not because we’ve got the most
incredible frontal cortexes on earth that could like reason us.
It’s because it’s out of the realm of the frontal cortex and it’s out of the realm
of temptation and limbic stuff.
在这样的情况下 我们会做更困难的事情 因为对我们来说 这并不是一件更难的事情
We do the harder thing in a case like that because for us it’s not the harder thing.
It’s become automatic, and that’s where you see it.
You see the best success with temptation when it isn’t tempting, when it’s automatic,
when we’ve distracted ourselves.
All of that frontal like “work your way through the right decision” gets you only
A fabulous study addressing this.
This was work by a guy at Harvard named Josh Green who put people in a study in a brain
扫描仪中做实验 如果他们做对了 他们就会得到奖励
scanner, of some task where if they got it right they get a reward afterward.
So there’s an incentive to get it right.
And this wonderful manipulative setup where at various points people were under the impression
that there was a glitch in the system and the computer wasn’t registering their answers,
so all they had to do was think what their answer was and then tell you afterward when
they heard the correct answer had they had the right answer or not.
In other words they could cheat.
你会发现这是一个随机的任务 所以大多数时候 人们的
And what you would see is it was a random task, so most of the time people were having
about a 50 percent success rate and along comes the opportunities to cheat.
And if people’s accuracy suddenly jumps up at that point, aha, that’s how you detect
a cheater or someone who’s lying at that point.
So the question becomes what’s going on with brains of people who cheated at those opportunities
and what you saw was as soon as that act came up their frontal cortexes activated like mad.
They’re wrestling with Satan!
They’re wondering if they should do it not!
They’re wondering if they should have done it the last time when they were honest!
They’re wondering if they’re ever going to – they’re wrestling all of that.
Okay, so that makes sense.
Then you look at the people who cheating opportunity or otherwise never cheat.
So what’s going on with them.
And we’ve got the two models there.
One of willpower: It’s because they’ve got frontal cortexes that can just like
be stoic and Calvinist and gumption out the yazoo there.
Or is it a state of grace?
They don’t cheat because you don’t cheat.
And the prediction there is if it’s all about willpower, as soon as the opportunity to cheat comes up
their frontal cortices are going to go through the roof in terms of activity.
If it’s a matter of grace, whatever.
And it was a matter of grace.
The people who never cheated: it wasn’t because they had the strongest frontal cortexes.
It’s because you don’t do that.
It was that simple.
It wasn’t a temptation.
And that’s much more of a model of “it’s not a realm of just having to work
so, so hard to feel for somebody else
or not pocket that thing even though nobody’s looking.
You just don’t do that.”