Hope for Cynics

The Surprising Science of Human Goodness

Coming Soon


By Jamil Zaki

Formats and Prices


  • Sale Price $24.00
  • Regular Price $30.00
  • Discount (20% off)


$39.00 CAD

Cynicism is making us sick; Stanford Psychologist Dr. Jamil Zaki has the cure—a “ray of light for dark days” (Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author).

For thousands of years, people have argued about whether humanity is selfish or generous, cruel or kind. But recently, our answers have changed.  In 1972, half of Americans agreed that most people can be trusted; by 2018, only a third did. Different generations, genders, religions, and political parties can’t seem to agree on anything, except that they all think human virtue is evaporating.

Cynicism is a perfectly understandable response to a world full of injustice and inequality. But in many cases, it is misplaced.  Dozens of studies find that people fail to realize how kind, generous, and open-minded others really are.  Cynical thinking worsens social problems, because our beliefs don’t just interpret the world—they change it. When we expect the worst in people, we often bring it out of them.

Cynicism is a disease, with a history, symptoms—and a cure. Through science and storytelling, Jamil Zaki imparts the secret for beating back cynicism: hopeful skepticism. This approach doesn’t mean putting our faith in every politician or influencer. It means thinking critically about people and our problems, while simultaneously acknowledging and encouraging our strengths. Far from being naïve, hopeful skepticism is a more precise way of understanding others, and paying closer attention re-balances how you think about human nature.  As more of us do this, we can take steps towards building the world we truly want.


  • “I can’t imagine a more timely topic. Hope is a skill, and one of my favorite psychologists has written its playbook. Hope for Cynics is grounded in fascinating research yet deeply personal, with an outstanding practical appendix of ‘try this’ tips for escaping the snare of cynicism.”

    Angela Duckworth, author of the New York Times bestseller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
  • “If you think hope is naïve and cynicism is wise, get ready to think again. Jamil Zaki is at the forefront of the science of beliefs, and he shows that refusing to see possibility makes it impossible to solve problems. This book is a ray of light for dark days.”

    Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Potential and Think Again, and host of the podcast Re:Thinking
  • “There has always been an emotional case for hope, but now there is a rational one. Jamil Zaki’s new book is beautiful, wise, and important—a sensible, scientific, and much-needed tonic for what ails us.”

    Daniel Gilbert, author of the New York Times best-seller Stumbling on Happiness
  • "Magnificently written and powerfully moving, Hope for Cynics is *the* societal medicine we all need right now. Filled with the latest science, practical tips, and moving stories, Zaki provides an inspiring example of how each and every one of us can turn towards more optimism, connection, and joy."

    Laurie Santos, Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon Professor of Psychology and host of The Happiness Lab podcast
  • "In these troubled times, we hope against hope for reasons to be hopeful.  And along comes Hope for Cynics, with good news not just about the future, but the present as well. Data, when viewed critically, show that we are less polarized, unempathic, and angry than we’re led to believe. There’s little to fear except snarky cynicism itself, and Zaki provides needed antidotes to it. Written with a wise personal voice, this is a vital book for all of us."

    Robert Sapolsky, New York Times bestselling author of Determined and Behave
  • “In this transformative book, Jamil Zaki presents an antidote to the cynicism corroding our social health. With rigorous scientific research and fascinating narratives, Zaki challenges the belief that humanity is inherent selfish, and advocates, instead, for a 'hopeful skepticism’ that creates a better world. This is a practical guide to nurturing a more trusting and cooperative society—and, ultimately, a more optimistic future.”

    Charles Duhigg, author of bestsellers Supercommunicators and The Power of Habit
  • “Zaki paints an optimistic yet realistic view of where things stand without papering over the obstacles to building trust in increasingly divided societies. This will convince readers they don’t need to bury their heads in the sand to envision a more hopeful future.”

    Publishers Weekly
  • “A refreshing look at why ‘people are probably better than you think’… With both heart and academic rigor, Zaki should persuade many cynics to trust in hope.”

    Kirkus (starred review)

On Sale
Sep 3, 2024
Page Count
288 pages

Jamil Zaki

About the Author

Dr. Jamil Zaki is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab. He trained at Columbia and Harvard, studying empathy and kindness in the human brain. He is interested in human connection and how we can learn to connect better.

Learn more about this author