BUILDING A KINDER FUTURE - WHY RESEARCH ON KINDNESS MATTERS
Advice is readily available in the media and as well as from our families. On topics of import, we call our children or get calls from our parents with the insistence that, “They say a glass of red wine a day is good for us; they say children who take art classes are more independent.” I am sure each of us has started with “they say” only to finish a sentence with the popular pronouncements of the moment, unsure of whom they are or how they made this knowledge claim. Importantly, we are often not aware of how our own assumptions are guided by popular culture’s interpretation of what passes for research findings.
Take the concept of kindness, which is the focus of our research. Do you assume that if you react with kindness, others will respond in kind? Do you think people act in an altruistic fashion only if kindness is rewarded? What motivates a kind organization to enact policies that treat each participant equitably? What factors influence kind businesses to pay a living, rather than a minimum, wage?
These are difficult questions. We care about finding the answers because we want to know how to facilitate social change that encourages kindness at every level of our community. Many argue society is trending toward a meaner, less caring, more divisive era. Individually, some are quick to demean. Organizationally, we are more exclusive. Institutionally, we experience greater inequality.
Responding to a negative trend with a cultural push toward kindness is imperative, especially for those in our society with the least power and fewest resources. Understanding how to create a social movement that influences attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs can be powerful when we change public opinion and everyday behavior. Therefore, research on how to promote a kinder community is important. This research should inform policies and practices that foster kinder environments so that we may more effectively enact a kinder version of our future. Our assumptions about how to develop a kinder community are a place to start, but from there we must employ systematic research methods to answer these complex questions.
They say research, like kindness, matters.
Meet the Otterbein Kindness Research Team
Otterbein’s Kindness Matters initiative is further distinguished by its commitment to learning and discovery. Kindness Matters includes a research component to honor Otterbein’s mission and values and to seek to understand if there are ways we can sustain a kinder, more just and compassionate society.
Carla Corroto, Chair and Associate Professor, Sociology, Criminology and Justice Studies, is serving as lead for this effort.
Dr. Corroto thanks the following individuals for their creativity and work on this project as well:
- Sandy Skovron, Affiliate Associate Professor;
- Leesa Kern, Assistant Professor, Sociology, Criminology and Justice Studies;
- Heidi Ballard, Associate Professor, Sociology, Criminology and Justice Studies;
- Judy Guion-Utsler, Chaplain; and
- Melissa Gilbert, Associate Dean, Experiential Learning; Director, Center for Community Engagement.