Skip directly to content

Kindness and the Atheist Case for Karma

Monday, March 5, 2018 - 18:30 to 20:30
All day: 

March 5, 2018
Kindness and the Atheist Case for Karma
Christopher Willard, PsyD
location: CMC see address above

There's an old joke that karma does not mean that cutting someone off in traffic means you won't find a good parking spot. But what if it does? In this talk, expanded from Chris's recent TEDx talk, we will explore more deeply the neuroscience, social science and even genetic science behind mindful and compassionate action. If “Karma” is a spiritual concept about of cause and effect, we will examine the ways that compassionate actions can "go viral" and ripple outwards through social contagion effects. We will also consider how compassion action can change us inwardly through neuroplasticity and influence future generations via epigenetics. Finally, we will discuss new social psychology research on "downstream and upstream reciprocity," which may have implications for how we perceive and feel about the world around us, and how our actions can ripple back to us, in what is essentially a statistical model of “what goes around comes around.” Looking more closely at how our behavior impacts ourselves, and the world, and how the world impacts us, we may well discover how you drive actually does affect whether you get that coveted parking spot.

At the end of this event, participants will be able to:

  1. understand the social psychology of behavioral contagion and upstream reciprocity
  2. learn about current research in the science of compassion and generosity
  3. understand how epigenetics may play a role in behavior and mental health


Dr. Christopher Willard (PsyD) is a psychologist and educational consultant. He has been practicing meditation for nearly 20 years, and leading workshops internationally on the topic of mindfulness, education, and psychotherapy. He currently serves on the board of directors at the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, and is the president of the Mindfulness in Education Network. He is the author of Child’s Mind (2010), Growing Up Mindful (2016), Raising Resilience (2017), and various other books. He teaches at Harvard Medical School.