When kindness is contagious

We have said it many times: the best thing to educate is to set an example. Now, a recent study comes to give the reason to this maxim of education, it has just shown that the goodness "it is contagious", that is, seeing other people doing good makes others be inspired and be generous too.

"Peer pressure it does not have to be always bad"This is expressed by Jamil Zaki, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University and one of the authors of a body of research that has demonstrated a wider class of positive compliance." In an article published in Scientific American, this psychologist He tells how his companions and he have found out "that people not only imitate the particularities of positive actions, but the spirit that underlies them".


For these researchers, the results of their studies indicate that the goodness "It is contagious" and not only that, but this contagion could "have a cascade effect on all people, adopting new forms along the way". That is, they have not discovered that seeing a person donate money to a charity is going to cause another to do the same, but it can lead to the observer having a kind behavior other than adapted to your personality. "Our work suggests that the goodness of an individual can inspire others to extend positivity in other ways," sums up the professor.

In their investigation, the psychologists of the prestigious American university observed without a doubt this contagion of kindness, but what led to it? "We still do not fully understand the psychological forces that control the contagion of kindness", admits Zaki in his article.

To try to explain it, he alludes to the possibility that people value the affinity with other people. "For example, we have found that when people learn that their own opinions match those of a group they use regions of the brain associated with the reward experience," he says, adding that this brain activity "corresponds to the subsequent efforts to align with the brain. a group"; that is, "when people learn that others act kindly they can come to appreciate more the goodness of themselves".

Conformity, strength for good?

It is possible that many think that, just as goodness is spread, evil can do it. The same principal author of the study mentions it, since lately one can observe in the United States a resentment that reflects that there are people following the example of others. "The growing and bitter gap between left and right in US politics shows how volatile this polarization can be," says the researcher.

Now, there is margin. In his opinion, the work done at his university "suggests that compliance can lead not only to animosity, but also to the commitment, tolerance and affection"But, how?" The battle between positive conformity and denial probably depends on what cultural norms people most often observe, he explains.

This means, according to this expert, that people who live surrounded by "grandiloquence and antagonism" tend towards "hostile and exclusionary" behaviors. On the opposite side, whoever perceives empathy from others "will strive to be empathetic, even with different people."

"By emphasizing the ways of empathy-positive, we can be able to exert power over social influence in order to fight apathy and conflict in new ways, "the researcher argues .In fact, he insists on a maxim: it is at that moment, when it comes to repairing ideological divisions and cultivate kindness, when "we need all the strategies we can find." And we have them.

Damián Montero

Video: Kindness is Contagious, Spread some

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