Does Art Make People Nicer?

By Sheila Eldred, Discovery Channel

Want people to be altruistic, tolerant, and open-minded? Expose them to the arts.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago report that people who engage in the arts — or even those who see others engaging in the arts — contribute more to society than those who don’t.

And, despite earlier studies to the contrary, Generation X respondents in this research were more civically engaged than older people.

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Lead researcher Kelly LeRoux, assistant professor of public administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago, got her data from the 2002 General Social Survey, in which a national sample of 2,765 randomly selected adults participated.

The researchers measured participation in neighborhood associations, church and religious organizations, civic and fraternal organizations, sports groups, charitable organizations, political parties, professional associations and trade unions.

To determine social tolerance, the researchers measured both acceptance for gender orientation and race, rating comments on what kind of books would be acceptable in a library, for example. To measure altruistic behavior, the researchers looked at things such as whether people donated blood or gave directions to strangers.

Arts exposure was defined as going to museums or music, opera and theater events; arts expression was defined as making or performing art.

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“If policymakers are concerned about a decline in community life, the arts shouldn’t be disregarded as a means to promote an active citizenry,” said LeRoux, who plans to repeat the study once 2012 data is collected. “Our positive findings could strengthen the case for government support for the arts.”



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Vee Jackson
Past Member about a year ago


Lea Silhol
Lea Silhol1 years ago

Maybe not "nicer", indeed, but more open minded, curious and tolerant... certainly! :-)

Tara W.
Tara W.1 years ago

I don't know if it makes you "nicer" but interest in arts and culture and social involvement do often to go hand in hand.

Sheri J.
Sheri J.2 years ago

Art helps bring people together because it triggers conversation. Art changes your perception and opens your mind. I like looking at optical illusions, that is one of my favorite art. It is said that optical illusions helps improve your vision.

Jess No Fwd Plz K.
Jessica K.2 years ago

I don't know if it makes people nicer (think Hitler), but if people are exposed to the arts, they have a better chance of learning about other ways of expressing themselves besides violence.

Dave C.
Dave C.2 years ago

thanks. interesting...

Carole H.
Carole H.2 years ago

very interesting thank you

Darren Woolsey
Darren Woolsey2 years ago

Art doesn't necessarily make people nicer. It can make people snobbish and arrogant, when they develop and attitude and opinion on something which has the effect of separating them from their familial origin or roots (background). Art can go a long way to releasing untapped potential within, making it very worthwhile with someone if, say, they have a learning difficulty with which orthodox education has failed with.

Sometimes, Art can be an expression of that which language with words cannot convey, so it has a multiplicity of uses for people wanting to engage.

katarzyna phillips

people say that talking about the weather is an ice-breaker, but the weather often performs works of art; and if people see sommat nice, they're more likely to comment about it to someone standing near to them, even if it is a complete stranger-which opens up further communication

Joe R.
Joe R.3 years ago