The Kindness Test: Sussex partners with BBC Radio 4 to explore the nation's attitudes to kindness
By: Alice Ingall
Last updated: Tuesday, 31 August 2021
University of Sussex academics are partnering with BBC Radio 4 on The Kindness Test, a huge public science project aimed at increasing our understanding of the role that kindness plays in our lives.
Kindness is an area of research which is rapidly expanding, with neuroscientists examining its impact on the brain, psychologists researching what prompts us to behave kindly - and what can prevent us from being kind - and political scientists studying its application to politics.
To find out more, The Kindness Test launched on a special eponymous programme today, Tuesday 31 August at 9am, on BBC Radio 4. Devised by a network of researchers based at the University of Sussex, the in-depth online questionnaire will explore how people view the place of kindness in their lives.
The study is spearheaded by Professor Robin Banerjee, Head of the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex and Principal Investigator on the research, along with BBC Radio 4 broadcaster and Visiting Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Sussex, Claudia Hammond, who has been working closely with the Sussex researchers to develop the questionnaire.
The public is invited to take part in the study and to respond to a range of questions on their attitudes towards kindness. It will take around 30 minutes to complete via www.thekindnesstest.org and will be live from Tuesday 31 August, to coincide with the programme broadcast.
The pandemic has brought the topic of kindness to the fore, highlighting inspiring examples of true kindness in action, and with thousands joining community WhatsApp groups. The latest research is demonstrating that kindness can be central to success at work, in politics and in relationships.
But this study will tell us more about how kindness is viewed within society at large and will fill some of the gaps in the research, exploring issues such as:
• What are the most common kind acts people carry out?
• Where do people most often experience kindness?
• What are the barriers to behaving more kindly?
• How is kindness valued in the workplace?
• Is kindness viewed as a weakness?
• What prevents people from being kinder?
• How does kindness relate to factors such as well-being, mental health, geographical location, gender and personality?
• How is kindness connected with compassion and empathy?
• How does kindness relate to our value systems?
Claudia Hammond, presenter of All in the Mind on Radio 4 and Visiting Professor of The Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Sussex, says:
“This feels like the perfect moment to explore the topic of kindness in depth. I think a lot of us have found the pandemic has led us to think more about what really matters to us. In my view kindness is not something soft, but something that can make a real difference.
“With the help of our large audience, I’m looking forward to discovering what everyone thinks about it.”
Professor Robin Banerjee, Head of the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex says:
“Recent research has begun to shine a light on the powerful impacts of kindness on people and communities, but there is so much we still don't know.
“This major survey, led by a team of researchers at the University of Sussex in partnership with the BBC, is designed to help us learn more about kindness in our lives -- how people's attitudes and experiences vary across different groups, and how kindness relates to our mental health, well-being, and other social and psychological experiences.”
The University of Sussex is developing a specialism in the science of kindness, with an interdisciplinary research group – headed up by Professor Banerjee – dedicated to examining how a kindness culture impacts well-being and different aspects of society, including the creation of the UK’s first ever academic position dedicated to the Psychology of Kindness.
The Kindness Test is the fourth in a series of questionnaires carried out in partnership between academic institutions and BBC Radio 4, the first three being on the topics of Rest, Loneliness and Touch respectively, each of which became the world's largest ever study conducted on those topics.
The results will be analysed and then announced on BBC Radio 4 in February 2022, with the findings informing subsequent research papers, which will be submitted for publication in scientific journals by the University of Sussex academics.