OPINION12 August 2020

Building a more caring world

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Behavioural economics Covid-19 Impact Opinion

In his latest column for Impact, Crawford Hollingworth delves into why prosocial interventions can lead to lasting change. 

Emotional intelligence brain emotion empathy_crop

How might we build and maintain a more caring, responsive world? In her work, researcher Brené Brown shines a light on a powerful behavioural insight – how empathy can motivate us to respond to others’ needs and behave more prosocially. Prosocial behaviour is defined as voluntary behaviour that benefits others and may involve a cost to oneself. If it does involve personal cost, it is more narrowly thought of as altruism. It can range from charitable donations to giving away fruit and vegetables from your garden, lending money, getting your child vaccinated or, during the current era, physical distancing and handwashing.

Prosocial behaviour can be driven by various factors, including eliciting empathy, cooperation or moral values. It may even be driven by a sense of social responsibility. Not surprisingly, initiatives to motivate people to go beyond their personal preferences and think more prosocially are currently very topical.

Studies on how to encourage behaviour change with broad societal benefits often focus on reducing ...