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Otterbein Towers Magazine: Building a Kinder Future

Otterbein Towers Magazine: Building a Kinder Future

Editor’s Note: This story can be found in the latest edition of Otterbein Towers Magazine. Read more stories from Towers online.

by Carla Corroto, chair, Department of Sociology, Criminology and Justice Studies 

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.

Carla Corroto thanks 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, University chaplain; and Melissa Gilbert, associate dean, experiential learning and community engagement; for their creativity and work on this project.

Read more stories about kindness in the latest edition of Otterbein Towers Magazine, available online now.