Study: Being around kids could make adults more compassionate

The presence of children could help bring out empathy in adults, according to a new British study. ― Unsplash pic via ETX Studio
The presence of children could help bring out empathy in adults, according to a new British study. ― Unsplash pic via ETX Studio

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LONDON, May 6 ― The presence of children could make adults show more compassion and generosity, according to new research from social psychologists in the UK.

Could children help adults to be better people? Social psychologists from the UK's University of Bath and Cardiff University studied the effect that the presence of children can have on adults, known as the “child salience effect.” The study findings, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, focus specifically on “how the presence of children influences adults' compassionate motivations and behaviours.” 

How seeing a child could boost empathy

To study this, the researchers carried out eight different experiments involving more than 2,000 participants. One experiment involved monitoring the number of donations made to a charity with no link to children on a shopping street in Bath, England. Here, the psychologists found that the presence of children increased the number of donations. When no children were present, the team observed roughly one donation every 10 minutes. When children were around, the number of donations doubled, rising to two every 10 minutes. And this increased generosity in the presence of children appeared to affect all adults, regardless of their age, sex and whether or not they were parents.

A role to play in political decisions? 

In sum, the researchers found that “the presence of children elicits broad pro-social motivation and donation behavior towards causes not directly related to children,” explains lead researcher Dr. Lukas Wolf.

So can children help drive adults to make decisions with greater compassion for others and for the planet? The University of Bath Department of Psychology researcher continues: “The finding that the presence of children motivates adults to be more compassionate towards others calls for more integration of children in contexts where adults make important long-term decisions, such as on climate change.” ― ETX Studio

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