Power of Acts of Kindness Meaningfully Mapped

The potential for acts of kindness and charity to have a positive impact on those who witness the acts has been a recurring theme in many fields within popular culture, but extensive research into the precise functioning of kindness within networks has been lacking for some time. Thanks to a study recently performed at Harvard University and the University of California at San Diego, such research has been conducted in a highly structural way, allowing for a precise view of how kindness spreads between people, and how far it is likely to reach. The study showed that a single act of kindness can extend as far as three degrees of separation, and also spreads laterally to affect a greater number of people interacting with a single affected individual.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Belle

    Belle

    March 12th, 2010 at 9:25 PM

    It’s so nice to have validation from such a professional source as Harvard for what my gut always knew!

  • sally m

    sally m

    March 13th, 2010 at 6:54 AM

    Has anyone ever did a study to show that people who are kinder most of the time live longer or have a better quality of life. That would be interesting to see. I don’t know if it would necessarily change the behavior of all but it certainly might encourage many of us to have a little more love in our hearts!

  • Defoe

    Defoe

    March 13th, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    Great to see that not only negative things spread but also positive ones do…if one person sees an act of kindness,the possibility of that act affecting that person into himself doing a kind act is great,but I guess this affects some people more than the others…

  • CODY

    CODY

    March 14th, 2010 at 2:37 AM

    Yes,I do agree that it motivates a viewer to replicate an act of kindness.It is for the same reason that some people donate at fund-raising even without any pre-planning after seeing a lot of people around them doing the same.

  • CODY

    CODY

    March 14th, 2010 at 2:37 AM

    Yes,I do agree that it motivates a viewer to replicate an act of kindness.It is for the same reason that some people donate at fund-raising even without any pre-planning after seeing a lot of people around them doing the same.

  • E.Rhodes

    E.Rhodes

    March 14th, 2010 at 2:37 AM

    Yes,I do agree that it motivates a viewer to replicate an act of kindness.It is for the same reason that some people donate at fund-raising even without any pre-planning after seeing a lot of people around them doing the same.

  • Kris N

    Kris N

    March 14th, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    Absolutely when I see others exhibiting kindness it makes me want to do the smae. How wonderful to find that many of us do take our cues from others and find a way to express that many times over in a positive manner! Now if we could all learn to do that all of then time and imitate the good and not the bad then think about the goodness that we could spread across the globe instead of the viriolic hatred that sometimes feels like it has prevalence.

  • Frances W

    Frances W

    March 14th, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    Kindness never goes unrewarded. It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow, but its influence will be felt by both the giver and the receiver.

  • Dale Cooper

    Dale Cooper

    March 14th, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    I have felt this exact way many a times. Whenever I take a walk in the park or something and I see people helping older folks, when I see people helping the unpriviledged, I feel like doing similar things too. I have followed that and gone ahead to do just that many a times! :)

  • Tabitha

    Tabitha

    March 14th, 2010 at 9:10 PM

    I have a friend that is sweet to everybody. She is a very caring soul and it exasperates her husband that she can’t sometimes walk on by like many do when she sees a person that’s upset or in need. It’s a shame that she’s the exception rather than the rule.

  • Cam

    Cam

    March 15th, 2010 at 6:32 AM

    I also think that the reverse of this is true. You especially see this in kids. When one kid is being mean to another then there are sure to be others who are going to jump in. Kindness is contagious but so is meanness. I think that much of this boils down to at the core so many of us want to be accepted and for many the easiest way to feel this is to go with the flow and exhibit the same behavior that we see in others. While it is great when this happens and leads to kindness and understanding it is horrible when the opposite happens. Parents and teachers both should keep an eye out for instances like this from occurring because kids can really get hurt as a result of being ganged up on.

  • alicia

    alicia

    March 16th, 2010 at 12:34 AM

    this is just human nature…we see someone being nice we want to do the same and emulate it…if there is someone being bullied most of us would do the same to that person but at least it is good that the emulation is followed in doing kind things as well.

  • Meg

    Meg

    March 16th, 2010 at 6:20 AM

    This is exactly the kinds of things that we all need to be more mindful of to encourage among ourselves. Giving back to others through actions and kindness feels good- there is just no better way to say it. This is what we were put on earth to do- be kind to others and you will receive that goodness back.

  • Paige

    Paige

    March 17th, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    And kindness is one gift we all can share! You don’t need money, status or any of the usual trappings of power. Kindness is powerful all on its own. We are more powerful than we think.

  • Gabriel

    Gabriel

    March 18th, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    Why is it individuals find it harder to be kind than be mean and selfish? My sister has a weird attitude. She’s always watching for them to put a foot wrong or say something silly that she can throw back in their face. If she put half that energy into being kind, and stopped wasting that, she’d be a much happier person. It’s as if she thinks no-one deserves to get through a day without being belittled.

  • Shona

    Shona

    March 20th, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    I wonder if the opposite is true. When someone is on the receiving end of unkindness, does it spread to the same extent? Does the bullied become a bully, or does it stop with them?

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