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How Do We Become More Sympathetic and Helpful? What Creates Good Character?
How Do We Become More Sympathetic and Helpful?
Creates Good Character?
sympathy, helping others could provide clues to development of altruism
Recently one of my
book groups read David Brooks, “The Road to Character.” It was a fascinating
book though I didn't feel the people he chose to write about had character in
the way I define it, they did help others through good work. This research
article shares insights into how helping others can build sympathy.
Research could help inform interventions to promote positive
behaviors in adolescents
Date September 29, 2015
Source: University of Missouri-Columbia
Summary: Developmental psychologists long have debated
whether individuals volunteer and help others because they are sympathetic or
whether they are sympathetic because they are prosocial. Now, new research
helps clarify some of the confusion.
psychologists long have debated whether individuals volunteer and help others
because they are sympathetic or whether they are sympathetic because they are
prosocial. Now, new research from the University of Missouri helps clarify some
of the confusion, which could lead to better interventions to promote positive
behaviors in adolescents and clues as to what makes some individuals
we've known about the link between sympathy and prosocial behavior, such as
volunteering and helping others, for a long time, but we didn't have much
evidence about the nature of the relationship," said Gustavo Carlo,
Millsap Professor of Diversity in MU's College of Human Environmental Sciences.
"We demonstrated that a reciprocal relationship existed between prosocial behaviors and
sympathy for adolescents from ages 12 to 16. Sympathy predicted prosocial
behaviors, but also engaging in earlier prosocial behaviors positively
predicted later sympathy."
Engaging in prosocial behaviors has a self-reinforcing quality that eventually
may become incorporated into how adolescents view their moral selves; this may
help explain how some individuals, over time, become more likely to engage in
prosocial behaviors and become more sympathetic, Carlo said.
"This research has tremendous implications for understanding those
individuals who we think of as moral exemplars, individuals who commit
themselves to certain causes or other forms of generosity -- people such as
Mahatma Ghandi, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr. and others," Carlo
said. "We want to know which developmental processes led these individuals
to eventually manifest altruistic behaviors that set them apart from other
individuals. For every one of those individuals who became famous, thousands of
others exist who are doing fantastic work and helping to improve our society on
a day-to-day basis."
For the study, the researchers recruited 500 12-year-olds to answer questions
about sympathy and prosocial behaviors. The researchers questioned the
adolescents four more times, each about a year apart, to observe changes in the
adolescents' behavior and sympathy over time. The researchers observed a
decline in sympathy among boys in early adolescence, but a steady increase
followed the dip as the boys matured. Girls had higher levels of sympathy and
prosocial behaviors at all ages.
To increase prosocial behaviors among adolescents, and among boys in
particular, attention should focus on changing the societal environment so it
encourages boys and girls to express their prosociality, Carlo said.
"Unfortunately, in our society, the pressures for boys to act tough and to
not express what's seen as a sign of weakness is suppressing prosocial
behaviors," Carlo said. "We need to pay attention to adolescents'
contexts and their socialization groups. Prosocial behaviors clearly are
natural tendencies, and unfortunately, some cultural contexts make it difficult
for adolescents to express those tendencies, which should be signs of strength
and not weakness. We need to get that message across and make it easier for
kids to express what's innately inside of them."
Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at www.PattiWood.net. Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at www.snapfirstimpressions.com. Also check out Patti's YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/user/bodylanguageexpert.