What was the last random act of kindness you were involved in? Was it something you did for someone else or something someone else did for you? Have you ever wondered how much that random act was appreciated?
Based on new research by Kumar and Epley (2022), we tend to underestimate the positive impact our random act of kindness has on its recipient. Whether they happened in a lab or in real life, the giver underestimated how positive their recipient would feel.
So why does this matter? It appears, from the research, that we are less likely to perform random acts of kindness if we underestimate the response. Basically, if you think the act will be perceived as no big deal then you are less likely to do it. As a result, people do less pro-social behaviours. This has the potential to reduce social relationships and well-being.
Okay, with my sustainability brain on I wonder what the implications of this could be. If I believe that taking actions like reducing my meat intake, carrying reusable bags, or taking public transit aren’t for my benefit but for the benefit of others including future generations then do they fall into the same category as random acts of kindness? Will I assume that others won’t actually value those acts and their global consequences?
This is just me thinking, but it seems pretty apparent that we have some barriers to taking actions that don’t give us immediate benefits. But if we thought that others might value those acts, would we be more willing to do it?