Kindness is Contagious

Cooperation in a Social Network (James Fowler -- UC San Diego)

Despite the clamorous insistence of cynics and pessimists, the evidence says that acts of kindness, generosity and cooperation ripple outward, spreading with amazing ease to others far beyond the act itself. Altruism is contagious – and it only takes a handful of individuals to make a very real and important difference.

So concludes a study by researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Harvard University and published in the March 8 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which provides “the first laboratory evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious and that it spreads from person to person to person. When people benefit from kindness they ‘pay it forward’ by helping others who were not originally involved, and this creates a cascade of cooperation that influences dozens more in a social network.” And this effect doesn’t simply vaporize, but persists.

As one of the principals of the study, James Fowler of UCSD, suggests “though the multiplier in the real world may be higher or lower than what we’ve found in the lab, personally it’s very exciting to learn that kindness spreads to people I don’t know or have never met. We have direct experience of giving and seeing people’s immediate reactions, but we don’t typically see how our generosity cascades through the social network to affect the lives of dozens or maybe hundreds of other people.”

For more on this study see ‘Pay It Forward’ Pays Off’ at EurekAlert! or this item at Science Daily.

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Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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