Merely Bystanders: The Psychology of Courage and Inaction

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Featuring Catherine Sanderson, author and professor.

About this Event

Common Ground Speaks is pleased to welcome Catherine Sanderson for a presentation on the psychology of courage and inaction, hosted by Morristown-Beard School.

Using empirical research from psychology and neuroscience, this talk examines the factors that lead most of us to stay silent in the face of bad behavior, and how the tendency to stay silent allows such acts to continue.

We are bombarded daily by news reports of bad behavior, from sexual harassment in the workplace to racist attacks on public transportation to bullying in schools. Although it’s easy to blame these acts on evil people, it’s far more complicated to understand why so many people fail to speak up in the presence of such behavior and how significant a role this silence plays in perpetuating the behavior itself.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Finally, this talk will describe how to overcome the very natural human tendency to remain bystanders and practical strategies for resisting such pressure in their own lives.

About the Speaker

Catherine Sanderson is the Poler Family Professor and Chair of the Psychology at Amherst College. Her research has received grant funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health. Professor Sanderson has published over 25 journal articles and book chapters in addition to four college textbooks, middle school and high school health textbooks, and trade books on parenting as well as how mindset influences happiness, health, and even how long we live.

Professor Sanderson speaks regularly for public and corporate audiences on topics such as the science of happiness, the power of emotional intelligence, the art of aging well, and the psychology of courage and inaction. These talks have been featured in numerous mainstream media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, USA Today, The Atlantic, and CNN. She also writes a weekly blog for Psychology Today - Norms Matter - that examines the power of social influence on virtually all aspects of our lives. Her latest trade book, published in North America as Why We Act: Turning Bystanders Into Moral Rebels (Harvard University Press), examines why good people so often stay silent or do nothing in the face of wrongdoing.

More information on Catherine Sanderson may be found on her website here:

Program Schedule

7:30 Live presentation followed by Q&A

Admission is free, but registration is required. On or about Friday, January 22, a Zoom link to join the presentation will be sent to all registered attendees.

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