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Description: You have heard, I hope, of the supposed power of providing random acts of kindness to others, even strangers, haven’t you? However, have thought much about why that might be a good thin g to do? We may have heard from parents, teachers and others that it is a good thing to be kind or nice to others but beyond making you feel like a good person who is making the world around them a little bit better (not such a small thing really) what do you actually know about the possible impact of a small kindness on its recipient? Sounds like a research question, right? So hypothesize about this. When one person does a small kindness for another (a stranger) how would the givers and recipient’s ratings of how “big” a kindness it was (on a 1-to-10-point scale) compare? Once you have your prediction in order read the article linked below that describes quite a few experiments looking at aspects of this very question to see what the researchers found.

Source: The Unexpected Power of Random Acts of Kindness, Catherine Pearson, The New York Times.

Date: September 2, 2022

Image by willian_2000 from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, across the board, recipients of small, random, unexpected acts of kindness consistently rated the kindness as great that did the givers AND rated their post receipt level of happiness higher than did the givers after they provided the kindness. As one of the researchers suggested, perhaps we should stop overthinking the cost of providing random acts of kindness and underestimating the positive impacts of those acts and just get into the habit of doing more of them. The research suggests little downside and powerful possible social upside, so get to it!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Have you engaged in small random acts of kindness? Why or why not?
  2. How do random acts of kindness affect the giver and the recipient? How do those affects compare?
  3. How might the positive impact of small random acts of kindness be promoted, other than just telling people to be nice an kind (or nicer and kinder)?

References (Read Further):

Kumar, A., & Epley, N. (2022). A little good goes an unexpectedly long way: Underestimating the positive impact of kindness on recipients. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Link

Raposa, E. B., Laws, H. B., & Ansell, E. B. (2016). Prosocial behavior mitigates the negative effects of stress in everyday life. Clinical Psychological Science, 4(4), 691-698. Link

Liu, P. J., Rim, S., Min, L., & Min, K. E. (2022). The surprise of reaching out: Appreciated more than we think. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Link

Passmore, J., & Oades, L. G. (2022). Positive psychology techniques–random acts of kindness and consistent acts of kindness and empathy. Coaching Practiced, 465-468. Link

Bellotti, V., Carroll, J. M., & Han, K. (2013, May). Random acts of kindness: The intelligent and context-aware future of reciprocal altruism and community collaboration. In 2013 International Conference on Collaboration Technologies and Systems (CTS) (pp. 1-12). IEEE. Link

Roldan, A. E., & Pastrana, N. B. (2022). Doing Act Of Kindness To Enhance Subjective Happiness: Correlates Of Academic Success. International Journal of Educational Research & Social Sciences, 3(2), 976-981. Link