Unlike any other time in history, humans have an expansive capacity to help and even save the lives of distant strangers thanks to advances in technology, economics, and medicine. But this capacity is often unrealized. People deeply love close others such as family and friends but rarely have an expansive and universal love that encompasses all of humanity.
This project applies a novel framework to test the mechanisms that foster the virtue of universal love across exceptionally caring populations (e.g., effective altruists, religious populations, extraordinary altruists), and harness these insights to bring about transformative benefits in the general population. Overcoming the biggest challenges society currently faces, such as pandemic diseases, global poverty, and climate change, requires a sense of universal love that includes distant strangers in order for humanity to flourish. This project unites approaches from social and cognitive psychology, moral philosophy, and theology in 5 studies to answer the questions:
1) What features of the mind allow exceptionally caring people to feel more universal love and care for even the most distant others? How are the core psychological systems that support familial love expanded, and intertwined with, caring about distant others?
2) How can these virtuous mental capacities be harnessed and expanded to help promote universal love in the general population?
3) What are the outermost limits of love? Our project rests on the idea that the features of the human mind that give rise to the virtue of universal love in exceptionally altruistic populations can be fostered to promote a more caring, compassionate, and healthy future for all of humanity.
Outputs include 3 peer-reviewed articles, 1 conference to bring together leading scholars across psychology, philosophy and theology, 1 museum presentation, 3 op-eds, 3 press releases, and 10 conference presentations to engage the general public and scientific community.