Why is revenge such a pervasive and destructive problem? How can we create a future in which revenge is less common and forgiveness is more common? Psychologist Michael McCullough argues that the key to a more forgiving, less vengeful world is to understand the evolutionary forces that gave rise to these intimately human instincts and the social forces that activate them in human minds today. Drawing on exciting breakthroughs from the social and biological sciences, McCullough dispenses surprising and practical advice for making the world a more forgiving place.
Michael E. McCullough (Miami, Florida), an internationally recognized expert on forgiveness and revenge, is a professor of psychology at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where he directs the Laboratory for Social and Clinical Psychology.
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Praise for Beyond Revenge
"It is not easy to want to forgive, rather than avenge, a wrong. In this fascinating book, Mike McCullough has delved into the evolution of the mind and discovered the means by which we can do it."
—Matt Ridley, author, Nature via Nurture
"Our species' aggressiveness draws so much attention that we sometimes forget our preference for peace. Having studied human forgiveness, Michael McCullough is in a perfect position to explain its evolution. This book opens our eyes to a much-neglected topic."
—Frans de Waal, Candler Professor of Primate Behavior, Emory University; author, Our Inner Ape
"The most important book on forgiveness in the popular literature."
—Martin E. P. Seligman, Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania; author, Authentic Happiness
"Fascinating, informative, and thought-provoking, this book will be useful to anyone interested in understanding human behavior or in trying to make the world a better place.
—Roy F. Baumeister, Eppes Professor of Psychology, Florida State University; author, The Cultural Animal
"Ranging gracefully across a wide intellectual landscape, McCullough creates a fast-moving detective story of the relationship between violence and forgiveness. Imaginative, precise, and original, Beyond Revenge shows evolutionary psychology at its best. Every Secretary of State should read it."
—Richard W. Wrangham, Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology and Wing Chair, Harvard University; author, Demonic Males
"McCullough's perceptive analysis of forgiveness and revenge shows that evolutionary thinking, far from the caricature of genetic determinism, provides a guide for understanding and improving the human condition."
—David Sloan Wilson, professor of biology and anthropology, Binghamton University; author, Evolution for Everyone
"Fascinating, lucid, and important. McCullough gives us new ways to think about revenge and forgiveness. In the process he gives us hope that we, and perhaps our nations and institutions, can work with human nature to improve our relationships."
—Jonathan Haidt, associate professor of psychology, University of Virginia; author, The Happiness Hypothesis
Why is revenge such a pervasive and destructive problem?
Why is the desire for revenge so tempting? Why is forgiveness so difficult?
What must we do to create a less vengeful, more forgiving world?
These perennial questions have never been more relevant than they are today. Psychologist Michael E. McCullough tackles them by challenging centuries-old misconceptions about revenge and forgiveness. Contrary to conventional wisdom, McCullough contends that the desire for revenge should not be likened to a "disease" or a "poison" that makes people do terrible things to each other. Instead, he argues, natural selection created our penchant for revenge because it helped our ancestors solve social dilemmas they encountered during human evolution. Revenge, according to McCullough, is a "problem" for us today because it was a "solution" during our ancestral past.
McCullough also debunks the misconception that forgiveness should be likened to an "antidote" or a "cure" for the desire for revenge. Instead, he argues, humans' capacity to forgive evolved because it helped our ancestors preserve relationships with genetic relatives and other valuable relationship partners. McCullough goes on to argue that when we encounter the social circumstances that activated the "forgiveness instinct" in the ancestral past, modern-day humans will be naturally inclined to forgive, often with less effort than we usually assume.
In this groundbreaking book, McCullough shows that the key to a more forgiving, less vengeful world is to understand the evolutionary forces that gave rise to these intimately human traits, the social forces that activate them in human minds today, and the changes that are necessary to make our relationships and social institutions better at activating the forgiveness instinct. Drawing on exciting breakthroughs from the social and biological sciences, McCullough dispenses surprising and practical advice for making the world a more forgiving place.
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