“The individual nature of a single cell can be compared to that of a manuscript. Each cell inherits the same first draft. Over time, words are scratched out and others are added; genes are silenced or activated. Different qualities or phrases are emphasized; and a unique novel is born from an otherwise standard script. Humans derive their individuality from epigenomes, which are triggered by chance events, like injuries, smells, infections, or falling in love.” – Siddhartha Mukherjee
In the early nineteenth century, the naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed offspring can inherit the improvements acquired by their parents during their lifetime. A classic Lamarckian example is that giraffes, when eating leaves from trees whose lower-lying leaves had been eaten, stretched their necks to reach the higher leaves. This action continuously lengthened their necks and as a result, their offspring inherited slightly longer necks than the previous generation. Over time, long-necked giraffes evolved from their ancestors who had much shorter necks. I share this Lamarck’s idea to raise the thought, do we inherit fears from the pervious generation? If we do, we must be careful of what fears we pass on to future generations during this global pandemic.
Are Your Fears Inherited?
(Sophia Azhou: inheritance)
In fascinating research, Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler determined that fear can pass down through generations. They used a fear conditioning experiment to make mice afraid of the scent of cherry blossoms by shocking them whenever the smell was in the air. They could see how the rodent’s fear centres would light up once they smelled cherry blossom in the air. While that is interesting, Dias and Ressler went one step further. They measured the reaction of the rodents’ offspring when they released the scent of cherry blossom in the air and determined the following generation were also afraid of the scent of cherry blossom.
Do our Fears Make Us Biased?
“We don’t take kindly to folk like you around here!”
(Image: Ripples by Bethan Powell)
“Good and evil increase at compound interest. That’s why the little decisions we make every day are of infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may go on to victories you never dreamed of.” – C.S. Lewis
Our guest on this week’s Innovation show is the brilliant Robert Sapolsky. Robert shared that people in areas with historically high pathogen loads and infectious diseases will be more likely to avoid outsiders and favour in-groups. Other studies found that cultures in high pathogen areas, “were more likely to socialise children toward collectivist values (obedience rather than self-reliance)”. There was also evidence that pathogens influenced reduced adult dispersal.
Friend of the Innovation Show, Tina Payne Bryson recently told us: “The experiences we provide activate brain activity. And so the kinds of experiences we provide and where we orient someone’s attention to repeatedly makes neurons fire and wire. So we’re sculpting people’s brains in the kinds of experiences we have.”
I share all this to shine a light on the fact that we are not only sculpting the brains of those around us, but we are sculpting the future of our world. Our behaviours, our actions towards others and the experiences we provide for those in our care have an immense impact on the future. This pandemic is difficult for all of us, but it is our responsibility to pay attention to how we mould the future, by paying attention to how we treat those people in our care whether that be as employers, teachers or parents. The things we do today send ripples into the future.
THANKS FOR READING