April 1, 2015


Author Daniel Goleman ’68 speaks at Johnson Chapel on March 26

On Thursday, March 26, renowned author and Amherst alumnus Daniel Goleman ’68 returned to campus to offer a talk on education titled “Educating the Heart: Beyond the basics of a liberal arts experience, what kind of education matters?” Goleman, a well-respected psychology writer, discussed leadership, the economy and his forthcoming book, A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World.

Goleman graduated from Amherst in 1968, and went on to receive a master’s degree from Harvard. In 1995, he published his best-selling and influential book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, where he argued that five additional factors beyond IQ attributed to success and intelligence.  Strongly interested in the psychological aspects at the core of Buddhist religion, Goleman has studied the effects of meditation and non-destructive thinking for more than 30 years.

Goleman’s talk, hosted by the Amherst Careers in Education Professions, centered on the role of intelligence in education and the teachings of the Dalai Lama. Prior to the presentation, Goleman met with President Biddy Martin and other faculty members to discuss new and innovative ways to boost the benefits of an Amherst education.

Goleman’s lecture began with a breakdown of the role of physical biology in thinking and the constant battle between selfish impulses and altruism. The amygdala, a portion of the brain that controls fight or flight responses, determines whether we are safe, he explained. However, in the modern world, the amygdala can lead to unhappiness, he argued.

“For most of us, the amygdala is triggered by symbolic events. Today, we operate in a complex social reality, so the amygdala is going to be hijacked by negative emotions,” said Goleman. “What the Dalai Lama teaches us is that we can be mindful, notice what’s going on in our minds instead of letting our stronger emotions overwhelm us.”

The biggest message the Dalai Lama champions, he said, is to be empathetic. In education, Goleman feels no other trait is more necessary. 

“I think we can only have the people that enact true compassion in the school system,” said Goleman. “The moment you think of others, your mind expands. Compassion nurtures more compassion. We’re pushed into competitive systems and have our compassion pulled from us. Education needs to preserve it.”

Concluding the speech, Goleman addressed student questions relating to compassion and cognitive control. One question asked how current students should measure their success.

“Good work aligns with what you are excellent at, strong at, and what engages you,” he said. “Ultimately, the measure for success is not how many bucks you make, but how happy you are.”