ARTICLE

December 09, 2020

Scalable interventions to lower Racism Sexism, Inequality, Stress, Anxiety and Depression while increasing Courage?

Last year when I started a new company, Brightsity, I realized that I had much to do in terms of giving people the keys to their own cars and letting them drive them safely. I also knew that after teaching almost 20 years, technology had caught up to our innate, evolved technology.

As the platform has executed before, statistically significant increases in courage jumped up, and an exciting time to do so with #metoo and important abuses of power being finally addressed. This is a teachable moment and encouraging in a world where we are more glued to our screens than ever! Sadly, technology may be exacerbating the bystander effect, as it is easier to pretend a lack of awareness via watching our phones in public than before, when we blatantly did with no distractions.

Social Dominance Orientation

Along with increases in Courage, we also saw decreases in Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) which may relate to much the suffering leaders create: "People high in SDO are dominant, driven, tough, and relatively uncaring seekers of power. High levels of preference for hierarchy in society (Social Dominance Orientation-SDO) seems to be related to:

  • Sexism
  • Racism 
  • Political-economic conservatism

Individuals who rate high on SDO typically "become members of institutions and choose roles that maintain or increase social inequality" and take "hierarchy enhancing" roles in organizations. Often, people who score high in SDO adhere strongly to belief in a "dog eat dog" world" - In other studies using the compassion programs we have also found that when higher in SDO, they are lower on compassion, as well as higher in stress, depression, anxiety. And now, with a new sample, we were excited to see that SDO scores lowered via our programs. This was very meaningful for us, as SDO is hypothesized to be a trait, which is not likely to change. We will further deconstruct the SDO measures into Group Based Dominance (related to Ethnocentrism) and Opposition to Equality (as SDO is generally considered a two-construct variable).

Irrespective of the hope of training folks in these ways is to increase an inner sense of compassion, as well as augment a sense of social justice, towards a more caring world and understanding their own inner suffering (higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression). We must pay attention to a “pecking order” or “social pyramid” born within. We can do best, well and right by collaborating, not competing. It seems that a world with lower SDO tendencies is especially needed these days. And for those behaviorally oriented, impact is critical.

We are also aware that the "Dark Triad" of leadership (Narcissism, Anti-Social and Machiavellian tendencies) is a powerful leadership style, which yields much havoc in human societies. Our previous applications of leadership training also collected data on dark triad leadership styles, in addition to the SDO, compassion and other well-being measures. Dark triad leaders are high in SDO (a finding well supported by the literature). What was exciting about that specific application is that the pre-post measures showed that the program was able to (not only increase compassion and reduce stress, depression, anxiety), but also reduce Machiavellian tendencies in the participants.

Next Steps

What does this all mean? Measurement is just as important as experience, but just a proxy for it. The reason we do better (productivity, healthcare, well-being and effort) is a balanced approach to actually measuring what we teach, getting rid of gurus and recognizing the genius in us all. Drop me a line.