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3rd August 2017, 2:48pm
People who embrace the arts more likely to help others
Engagement in the arts can make you more giving. People who embrace the arts are statistically more likely to help others by giving to charity or volunteering, regardless of income or social background, according to a major new research published today.

Psychologists from the University Lincoln and University of Kent explored the attitudes of more than 30,000 people to examine what factors would best predict so-called ‘prosocial behaviour’ – such as making donations to charity or volunteering.

They found that over a two-year period, those people who engaged more actively with the arts were more likely to volunteer and give to charity.

The team assessed the positive relationship between attending arts events or participating in others ways in the arts, and giving to charity and volunteering. They found that even after accounting for demographic variables such as gender, individual resources such as personal income, core personality such as openness, and sports engagement, those who engaged in the arts were still more likely to exhibit prosocial behaviour.  

Only age and monthly savings had larger effects than arts engagement on charitable giving and only educational level and working hours had a larger impact on volunteering. The findings suggest that there should be substantial social and economic gains from investing in the arts, particularly if policies and investments make the arts more widely available to people from all social backgrounds.

Dr Julie Van de Vyver from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology, said:  
“We were surprised by the statistical strength of these findings, and were struck by the powerful and unique implications of the evidence for the role of the arts in creating and maintaining society-wide prosociality.

“If the arts can be such a powerful social psychological catalyst to foster and maintain prosociality, then there is a social and economic case that the arts make a crucial contribution towards a cohesive and socially prosperous society. It is particularly impressive that people who engaged more with the arts two years earlier continue to show even greater prosociality now.”

The researchers, who also worked with charity People United and were supported by grants from Arts Council England and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), made use of data from the ESRC’s Understanding Society annual national longitudinal survey of 30,476 people in the UK.

Professor Dominic Abrams at the University of Kent’s School of Psychology, who co-authored the research, said: “Given the complexity of society, people cannot rely only on one-on-one interactions for bonding and cooperation, but other factors can create these bonds psychologically. Because any person in any part of the world can engage in the arts either by creating or by observing others’ creations, people’s engagement with the arts is a way in which experiences and meaning becomes shared.

“It is remarkable that regardless of people's personality, age, education, employment and savings, their engagement with the arts remains a stronger predictor of their prosociality than any other variables.”

The Arts as a Catalyst for Human Prosociality and Cooperation is published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

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