How To Be a Moral Rebel: Catherine Sanderson
Okay I'M GONNA start with this. I have a confession to make. What did you do now Richard? This is about masks back in late January. I flew to Melbourne Australia. And I remember that at the airport arrivals area. Most of the people coming on flights from Asia were wearing masks and I somewhat smugly thought to myself. That's Kinda weird I mean and now I realize that that they were right. I was wrong to judge them. That that wearing a mask indoors when you might infect others is inactive kindness so my view of of wearing masks subsequently has changed in your Defense Richard. I mean you were following the advice of who the World Health Organization and other experts at the time. We're telling us all that we really didn't need to wear to wear masks. Their advice changed. And what's amazing to me is how quickly everyone in the. Us has shifted gears and started wearing masks and our standards have really turned on a dime and that leases us to the subject of this podcast. Why we act turning bystanders into moral rebels Catherine Sanderson yes so worrell rebels seem to be able to and in fact comfortable with standing up and calling out bad behavior even if they're in a group setting in which other people are staying silent even when it might feel terribly hard to do so for the rest of us. Our show is about fixes. Yeah how to make the world a better place? How do we fix it hiding the Nixon? So many routines or habits have changed because of this pandemic and I think that makes it a good time to question things even really basic things. We can look at our values and our way of life and ways. It we don't do so much in normal times. What will normal times looked like in the future? We have no idea but we do know that the pandemic is kind of a moving target and that many people have responded fast. Our Guest Psychology. Professor Catherine Sanderson of Amherst College in Massachusetts. She's the author of the new book. Why we act turning bystanders into moral revels Catherine joins us from Hadley Massachusetts on. How do we fix it and during this interview in this time of of texting and social messaging? You'll probably here a few things from Catherine's phone Catherine Welcome to our remote studio at. How do we fix it at thank you so much for the invitation to Talk Katherine? I'm fascinated about how this pandemic that were now. All living through has turned all of us from by-standers to participants. Many of us have changed our habits very quickly. Haven't wait absolutely and I think it was also helped early on by some leaders. I know people in the sports world made certain videos that went around on twitter and social media saying hey we got us distance and this is what I'm doing. We gotta be say celebrities also being very forward about saying this is really important and I think by all accounts. That really made a difference. What surprised you the most about this? It surprised me the most about the extent to which the norms change so on Monday march nights in the evening we got an email from the president students faculty staff and it said the semester is moving online backup. Tourneys go home. You're not coming back so initially it was will. We're all going to go home but faculty are going to go in and you know teach in their office then four days later it was no pack up your stuff. Our colleges closed. You can't actually go into your office anymore. So initially it became a were just gonNA restrict travel or we're going to do other things and then all of a sudden it became this escalation. I mean two weeks ago it was no no. There's no need to wear masks unless you're showing symptoms and now it's really. Everyone should be wearing a mask when they are in a grocery store. So all of those are just major chefs and their major shifts. That have happened in some cases within days but in many cases within weeks it still is surprising to me how social norms of changed so quickly. What are some ways that we can change norms to improve human behavior at a time like this? This is research from a professor at the University of Pennsylvania is that it actually takes about twenty five percent of the people in a given community to make shipton norms and once you have that number of people you actually create a tipping point and therefore other people follow. So what's been interesting that we've actually seen. Is that different states rolled out the shift at different times. Some were very early. Some tended to be a little bit later. And what you're seeing is sort of this. Gradual Tipping Point Shifting. Almost like dominoes state by state. A lot of your work focuses on how social groups influence our sense of what the morally correct behavior is. Do you think. Social Media helped accelerate this acceptance of just how bad this could get and and why we needed to change behavior quickly absolutely one really did allow social norms to be transmitted very very quickly but the other thing with social media of course is doing also really keeping people connected right now so people are talking about how unfair signing with my grandchild teaching on Zoom. And so on so it's a really interesting example of sort of the benefits that we may not have anticipated. That really have come out of social. North's Catherine your latest book is called why we act turning bystanders into moral rebels. Something that happened when your son started. His first year in college was behind your decision to write the book. Tell us about what happened. So my oldest child. Andrew started college a few years ago and about two weeks. N I got a call from him. His first phone call home and his voice was breaking and he said a kid died in my dorm last night and the story was so very very familiar to all of us. Student is drinking on a Saturday night. With friends he falls he hits his head and then a group of kids around him his friends. His roommate were really worried about him. They wanted him to be safe so they watched him make sure he was still breathing. They strapped a backpack around his shoulders to make sure he didn't roll onto his back vomit and choke to death and what they did was they watched over him for nineteen hours before they called nine one one and when they finally called to get help it was too late and these were good kids. These nice kids. These were kids. Who CARED ABOUT THEIR FRIEND? And yet they didn't step up an act and so that was really the star of my idea for this book was find understand and unpack. What led these nice kids to not call nine one one immediately and so you dug into all the social science research and also some of the the brain research using FM are is to analyze. What's going on in the brain when people are confronted with different kinds of moral decisions? What did you find? I just immersed myself in the latest research is you said a neuroscience but also frankly in historical examples so. I spent a lot of time you know. Sorry if you could just repeat that sorry I think otter taxed I literally. Yeah that was it. I also immersed myself in both present day political examples and historical example so I read books about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. I read books about the Civil Rights movement in the United States and the extent to which lots of people didn't step up when there were lynchings on the courthouse lawn and I really wanted to understand what's happening at a very very broad level. Because what's clear. Is that this example of these college students not stepping up in a dorm room. That's one specific in vivid example but the psychological factors that led to their inaction are exactly the same as psychological. Factors that underlie inaction in all sorts of different situations. You said that one reason why bullying Sony sure how to turn her off. GonNa hear you need to stop texting. And you know we're putting all of this in the podcast right absolutely all of this. I listen to like NPR or the daily podcast. And you'll hear like dogs barking. I'm sorry I don't I don't know where that is. Okay so you said that. One reason why bullying sexual assaults political corruption and corporate crime. Oh flourish is because of the failure of good people to stand up and do the right thing. So let's look at an example. Well I mean honestly. There are so many as I was writing this manuscript. The grand jury report from Pennsylvania and the Catholic priests was released illustrating lots of people in a religious community. Were silent as true. We apparent behavior was being done. Too little kits the Harvey Weinstein Stop came out and I remember a quote from an interview in the New York Times with Quentin Tarantino. And they said. Should you have done something? Did you know what was going on? And here is Quentin Tarantino's quote. I knew enough to do more than I did now. That's a clear example of the Olympic gymnastics Dr Nassar. That all came out as I was writing this book. An example of lots of people knew for years what was going on and didn't speak up and so what's been interesting to me working on the spoken than now doing publicity for the book. Is that every time I talk about this people say to me? Oh I was GONNA hotel ballroom in this thing happened. I was in the stands of a hockey game and I should've said something or I was in an airport and I saw this thing that it's really a universal experience that we've all had you really get into the way that people take their cues from everyone else around them you know if they're on a subway car and something bad is happening but no one else seems to be engaging or doing anything about it you might doubt your own perception that it's bad or you might be more reluctant to get up and take action. It's hard to break that sense that that everyone else thinks this thing is okay that phenomenon of looking at other people's behavior and our own and even when that behaviour is publicly the same so sitting on a subway car and you see something and you don't act the no-one acts you see that your behavior not acting is the same as everybody else's behavior not acting. We all tend to assume that. Our behavior our inaction is driven by different factors than other people's inaction even when the behavior is the same. So we'd say I'd really like to speak up. I don't WANNA BE EMBARRASSED. And you make a fool of myself and be seen as overreacting. So that's why I'm not speaking up but then you look at other people who are also not speaking up and you don't say oh that they're embarrassed you say oh they understand that. Nothing's going on that. There's no problem you call people who do stand up to wrongdoing moral rebels. What do you mean by that term? Yeah so more. Rebels seem to be able to and in back comfortable with standing up calling out bad behavior. Even if they're in a group setting in which other people are staying silent so moral rebels seem to be willing to stand up even when it might feel terribly hard to do so for the rest of us and what gives them that that courage that strength of character so there are a few different trades that they seem to have in common one. They seem to be pretty high in empathy. So they're very good to sort of put themselves in someone else's shoes another factor is they seem to not really be socially inhibited. I think the third trait is they seem to be pretty self-confident so they actually feel their opinion is worthwhile. Their opinion is valuable and therefore should impact say something in that situation. It's how do we fix it? I'm Richard Davies and I'm Jim megs and we're speaking with psychology. Professor Catherine Sanderson about her new book which is called why. We act turning bystanders into moral rebels. More in a moment that was a victorian that was good timing before the break. We were talking about what gives people the courage to stand up and and defy the rest of the crowd the rest of the group and and really call attention to something wrong. That's going on but you in the book you also talk about the opposite phenomenon. You use really interesting term social loafing. What does that mean so? We've all experienced social open even if we don't know this term so social loafing is basically our tendency to withdraw effort when we're in a group setting it's why restaurants impose a mandatory fifteen eighteen twenty percent tip on group parties because invariably everybody says while you know. I don't have to really get my fair share because these other people can you know. Make up the amount that. I'm not contributing. Let's look at some ways that that people can step up wider people who have some kind of specialized training such as first aid or or CPR. Why are they more likely to intervene in in the face of danger? So that basically helps break the sense of diffusion of responsibility. So if you're on a plane and somebody's having an emergency many of us might say oh I recognize but I don't have the skill set but if somebody is a doctor or even somebody who's a medic are trained in CPR. First Aid Day in back. Do HAVE THE SKILLS. And that means they can't simply socially loaf and say while all of us could step up and help because the reality is there a better person to step up and help them the rest of us and so that tends to break this social inhibition. So should we go out and get trained at something when should know we'll and and the reality is it doesn't even have to be going to medical school having training in CPR. First Aid helps. I describe an example in the book of somebody who went through first aid training as part of becoming a boy scout leader and they in fact been stepped up in a pretty violent altercation on a public street in London so having any kind of specialized training in fact gives us more confidence that we can step up and it should increase our willingness to do so even in a group setting you also talk about some of the things that can help people step up in less violent but in some ways no less troubling situation. Such as you know people are expressing racist or sexist jokes or other attitudes in the workplace or in other Other settings ways to challenge that ways to defuse that what are some of those techniques. They're different techniques that are useful in different situations. So let's take the example of somebody saying something sexist or racist in a meeting. One possibility is to show empathy for that person and say listen. You know I know you really didn't mean anything but you know my brother is gay. You know or you know my Uncle experienced sexual assault and it's really important therefore for you not make jokes about it. And so that's the way in which personalizing example may make the person more sensitive to it without saying something like you're a jerk and I'm a report you or we're not friends or whatever. I also give another technique which is using humor. So somebody says you know. Oh I could never vote for you know Elizabeth. Warren you know women are too emotional to be president and they bite me totally serious but you could say ha ha you know. I know you're joking. I know you don't really believe that. But you know some people really do believe it so really. You shouldn't say it because people might not understand that you're just being sarcastic and so having a sense of different skills and strategies that you can use a particular setting. I'm hoping we'll give people the opportunity to step up at the moment instead of rehearsing the perfect line. Twenty four hours later when it really isn't going to help Catherine what about in this current moment most of us have been to the grocery store and someone is has gotten too close to us in the shopping. I'll or in the checkout line. What do you say there so I think it's really important and it's time to be able to clearly communicate? That is not okay so I think saying something like. Hey you know. Let's remember social distancing or you know I have a family member at home. Who's you know quite older immuno compromised so again making the person feel bad about themselves but also clearly conveying. What is the nor as my college students were leaving campus. Many of them came by to say goodbye and many of them at the end would reach over to either shake my hand or hoppy and for every single one of them I said. Hey you know. We're practicing social distancing. Let's do away or let's to pat are jazz or let's do an elbow bump and it was very clear that all of them just didn't know what to do and then. I really felt the responsibility as the adult to kind of say. Knock in hug goodbye. You Know Hans. We need to show what is appropriate to do. Do you think that in a moment like this? Adversity can breed resilience absolutely so research for example has shown that adversity tends to make people more compassionate that we see lots of evidence that during difficult times people who've undergone difficulties they tend to become more sympathetic to other people. They tend to be more giving and I think we've seen an outpouring of that in a variety of ways whether it's people organizing to applaud at seven PM as hospital workers championships in various cities. We've seen in terms of people gathering to support local businesses or get takeout from restaurants or independent bookstores. And I think all of that is encouraging. It's also true that adversity gives people skills in terms of coping with difficult events. So my hope is that college students will return to campus. Hopefully this fall and and be able to say you know I gotta see on that mid term but at least that's not as bad as not being able to go to a restaurant or go to the gym or do other things that I might take for granted under normal circumstances Catherine Sanderson. Thanks very much for joining us on. How do we fix it? Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk. We all need more happiness and moral courage in the world these days absolutely and now it is that time in the show. Richard where we take a break and make our recommendations. Yeah my recommendation. This week is a TV. Show firing line with Margaret Hoover. And recently she's had some terrific guests on including Mark Cuban and Scott Gottlieb. And what I like about this show. Is that unlike so many current affairs programs on television. Today I have no idea whether Margaret is a liberal or a conservative she just asked questions in a straightforward way and the questions are short their incisive. The conversation moves fast and I really recommend it. It's on every week on public. Television stations usually on Saturday or Sunday. Yeah actually saw both those interviews and which is funny because one of my recommendations is to watch less news on TV. I've found it's been really nice not to turn the TV on as much normally when. I'm making launch dinner. I've got it on in the background. Usually some cable news channel. And it's been too much lately and so if I do want to put on the TV more often. I'm GONNA toggle over the Turner Classic Movies Channel. I watch most of Ben her the other day. I guarantee you that watching chariot races in ancient Rome was a lot better than watching people argue about the pandemic yet way too much of cable television especially is just aimed at inflaming people and making them feel miserable in the end rather than empowered or or giving them something. That's of Value Richard. I think the Catherine's book really hits on something I've been interested in my whole life. Which is how do people form moral judgements? You know I was a philosophy major in college and I'm still interested in these questions and I think that her focus on the role of the group dynamics the group think in in how we make moral judgments and really many judgments is so crucial. It's not just do we call out bad behavior. Do we step up to do the right thing. Sometimes also do we see a problem. Urging do we see a disaster coming down the Pike? You see a lot of failures in the run-up to this pandemic among people who meant well. But they had a hard time visualizing how bad it could be and then they looked around and nobody else seemed all that word either so almost everyone with a few small exceptions underestimated how bad this thing could get catherine's interviews also repeating themes in our shows for instance cleric Kane Miller who talked about how people with training or more likely to step up and point out incidents of sexual harassment at work and then the theme of how do we change people's minds We had several guests discuss that in in in recent months so Yeah this is very much a home turf for us. It's very easy in these situations. Say LIKE WELL. You just have to do the right thing. You just have to be a better person but in the moment. That's not always so obvious that people are they don't know how to get there. They don't have the tools. So that's why the training's important and that's why she talks about the small steps and help get people towards the right answer or if you're challenging somebody who's saying something that's offensive to people you don't have to stand up and say. I accuse you of being horrible racist. That's not necessarily GONNA help. You might start gently you might start sympathetically and try to defuse the situation before it. It gets worse and that might be both easier for you and be more likely to solve the problem now. Small steps are often a better way to help. People get to the right destination. If you make the steps to big people might not take them and to final thoughts of one that those small steps may make you feel better as you're doing them and to when Catherine said adversity can breed resilience. I love that thought. My guess we'll end with it. It's how to fix it. I'm Richard Davis and I'm Jim megs and our producer is katharine. No she knows not sorry. Verandah and our producer is Miranda Schaefer. Where a production of Davies Content? We make PODCAST FOR COMPANIES AND NONPROFITS. Check out our website at Davies content dot com. And as always. Thanks for listening to this. Podcast is part of the democracy group.