issues and experts

Acts of kindness

July 07, 2015
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Performing acts of kindness can help socially anxious people relax and mingle more easily with others, according to a study co-authored by Jennifer Trew, a post-doctoral research fellow in Simon Fraser University’s Department of Psychology, and researcher Lynn Alden.

The study divided 115 participants who experience high levels of social anxiety into three groups. One group actively performed acts of kindness, the second was only exposed to social interactions and was not asked to engage in such deeds, while the third participated in no specific intervention. They found the group that performed acts of kindness reported less desire to avoid negative outcomes in social situations.

"Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person's social environment," says Trew. "It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations and negative social outcomes such as embarrassment."

The study, titled “Kindness Reduces Avoidance Goals in Socially Anxious Individuals,” was recently published in the journal Motivation and Emotion.

Jennifer Trew, PhD, post-doctoral research fellow, Department of Psychology, 778.782.7155, jtrew@sfu.ca