One of our recommended books is Why We Act by Catherine A. Sanderson

WHY WE ACT

Turning Bystanders into Moral Rebels


Why do good people so often do nothing when a seemingly small action could make a big difference? A pioneering social psychologist explains why moral courage is so rare—and reveals how it can be triggered or trained.

We are bombarded every day by reports of bad behavior, from sexual harassment and political corruption to bullying belligerence. It’s tempting to blame evil acts on evil people, but that leaves the rest us off the hook. Silence, after all, can perpetuate cruelty. Why We Act draws on the latest developments in psychology and neuroscience to tackle an urgent question: Why do so many of us fail to intervene when we’re needed—and what would it take to make us step up?

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Why do good people so often do nothing when a seemingly small action could make a big difference? A pioneering social psychologist explains why moral courage is so rare—and reveals how it can be triggered or trained.

We are bombarded every day by reports of bad behavior, from sexual harassment and political corruption to bullying belligerence. It’s tempting to blame evil acts on evil people, but that leaves the rest us off the hook. Silence, after all, can perpetuate cruelty. Why We Act draws on the latest developments in psychology and neuroscience to tackle an urgent question: Why do so many of us fail to intervene when we’re needed—and what would it take to make us step up?

A renowned psychologist who has done pioneering research on social norms, Catherine Sanderson was inspired to write this book when a freshman in her son’s dorm died twenty hours after a bad fall while drinking. There were many points along the way when a decision to seek help could have saved his life. Why did no one act sooner?

Cutting-edge neuroscience offers part of the answer, showing how deviating from the group activates the same receptors in the brain that are triggered by pain. But Sanderson also points to many ways in which our faulty assumptions about what other people are thinking can paralyze us. And she shares surprisingly effective and simple strategies for resisting the pressure to conform. Moral courage, it turns out, is not innate. Small details and the right training can make a big difference. Inspiring and potentially life transforming, Why We Act reveals that while the urge to do nothing is deeply ingrained, even the most hesitant would-be bystander can learn to be a moral rebel.

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  • Belknap Press
  • Hardcover
  • April 2020
  • 272 Pages
  • 9780674241831

Buy the Book

$27.95

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About Catherine A. Sanderson

Catherine A. Sanderson is the Manwell Family Professor in Life Sciences at Amherst College and the author of The Positive Shift: Mastering Mindset to Improve Happiness, Health, and Longevity. She has written five college textbooks, including Real World Psychology, as well as widely-taught middle and high school health textbooks. Sanderson lectures around the country and was chosen by The Princeton Review® as one of the best college professors in America. Her work has been featured in the Atlantic and Washington Post and on CBS and NBC.

Praise

“From bullying on the playground to sexual harassment in the workplace, perfectly nice people often do perfectly awful things. But why? In this thoughtful and beautifully written book, Sanderson shows how basic principles of social psychology explain such behavior—and how they can be used to change it. A smart and practical guide to becoming a better and braver version of ourselves.”—Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

“Much of what enables evil people to do evil things is that we stand idly by and let them. In this powerful, well-written book, Catherine Sanderson explains what psychology has taught us about why good people so often do nothing and offers wise suggestions that will enable more of us to step up and be ‘moral rebels’ when the situation calls for it. If you have ever regretted being silent (and who hasn’t?) this is the book for you.”—Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice

“In an age of government misconduct, corporate malfeasance, and #MeToo, it’s tempting to believe that bad things happen because of bad actors. But as Catherine Sanderson compellingly illustrates, these events aren’t just due to ‘a few bad apples’—they are enabled and sustained by good people who are complicit in behavior they know to be wrong. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why we can become silent bystanders to unconscionable actions—and what we can do to empower ourselves and others to speak out.”—Asha Rangappa, national security analyst for CNN and former FBI agent

“As unwilling witnesses to injustice, many of us have asked ourselves, ‘Why doesn’t someone do something?’ Catherine Sanderson answers this question of conscience in her powerfully persuasive book. This brilliant work stands at the intersection of social justice and social psychology. Using insights from academia, the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib, and crime scenes of police brutality, Sanderson analyzes the powerful forces that drive human beings to act against cruelty, injustice, and human suffering. The unrelenting rigor of her analysis, sweeping breadth of research, and evocative lucidity empower us to act—and also give us hope. This book comes not a moral moment too soon.”—Cornell William Brooks, Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice, Harvard Kennedy School, and former President of the NAACP

“I tend to assume that all that can be said about human nature was said by Aristotle. Catherine Sanderson has challenged my prejudice with this lively and engaging book full of interesting observations about human beings and their actions. Or has she ‘merely’ updated Aristotle through the lens of modern social psychology? If so, that’s a worthy achievement.”—William Kristol, Director of Defending Democracy Together

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