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JAMIE YOUNG [*]
In our fast-paced, high pressure society we are encouraged to take care of ourselves and not worry about our fellows. This has become such routine, that we have forgotten how to he kind to strangers for the sheer pleasure of helping a fellow human being. In today's world people are very skeptical when strangers perform random acts of kindness. We observed reactions to a random act of kindness. We gave 122 people a flower. We did not find significant differences in reactions to kindness by age of the receiver. However, we did find that women responded more positively to kindness than did men. Also people tended to respond more positively to kindness when the giver was white regardless of the race of the receiver.
Rarely does one turn on the television or read in a newspaper about people performing acts of kindness for strangers. Rather, we are plagued with stories of murder, burglary, and other crimes that leave us thinking the world is simply not a nice place in which to live. Strains of contemporary economic and criminological theory rest on the idea that individuals act to maximize their own interests even at the expense of others. Still, we know that there are some individuals who are likely to assist others without receiving compensation or a reward for their kindness. We define a random act of kindness as a something one does for an unknown other that they hope will benefit that individual. Examples of acts of kindness include: paying a toll for the next driver, putting money in a parking meter for someone one does not know after the meter expires, or giving a stranger a flower.
Kohn (1990) and McGarry (1986) believe that individuals are more likely to aid strangers if, as children, they witnessed their own parents and other significant adults setting an example of human kindness. Children observe those wound them and learn how to be human. If children regard adult behavior as indifferent to the suffering of others, then they are not likely to reach out themselves (see McGarry, 1986).
Additional factors that influence intervention of strangers include the number of other people around, the feeling of control over one's own life, how assertive one is, and how good one feels about one's self (Kohn, 1990). Others (Levin and Isen, 1975; Shaffer, 1985) argue that differences in kindness are not mood-induced. In the past, some argued that people experiencing negative moods might act kindly to others in order to brighten their own disposition. Benevolence associated …