Research on Kindness

A small act of kindness from more than 25 years ago still sticks with me: someone I barely knew saw me struggling with my bicycle and offered to drive me to the repair shop. I’m sure my helper wouldn’t even remember having performed this act of kindness, but I do. (Hear me tell the story here.) It made me realize what a huge impact an act of kindness can have on someone, and made me want to be more kind myself. The Dalai Lama said: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” But it’s not that simple, is it? Sometimes people think they’re doing something kind, but the recipient doesn’t agree. Sometimes people want to be kind, but feel that they can’t. This may include worries about how the act of kindness will be received. Frankly, many people feel a bit uncomfortable about kindness, despite it being universally valued. Some questions that I’m interested in exploring further:

  • Why do people stop themselves from performing acts of kindness?
  • What are the effects of observing others perform acts of kindness?
  • How is our behaviour affected when we have kindness in mind?

I contributed to The Kindness Test – the largest ever public science project on kindness, conducted in partnership with BBC Radio 4 (see below for media coverage of The Kindness Test).

Click to access each publication and each media article. If you would like to read a paper, but can’t access it, please email me and I’d be happy to send a copy for your personal use.


Buchanan, K.E., Aknin, L.B., Lotun, S., Sandstrom, G.M. (2021). Brief exposure to social media during the COVID-19 pandemic: Doom-scrolling has negative emotional consequences, but kindness-scrolling does not. PLoS ONE

Sandstrom, G.M.*, Schmader, T.*, Croft, A., & Kwok, N. (2019). A Social Identity Threat Perspective on being the Target of Generosity from a Higher Status Other. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 82, 98-114.

  • *First authorship equal and listed alphabetically
  • Data and materials available publically at:

Whillans, A.V., Dunn, E.W.,Sandstrom, G.M., Dickerson, S.S., & Madden, K.M. (2016). Spending money on others improves cardiovascular health. Health Psychology, 35(6), 574-583.

Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W., Sandstrom, G.M., & Norton, M. I. (2013). Does social connection turn good deeds into good feelings?: On the value of putting the “social” in prosocial spending. International Journal of Happiness and Development, 1(2), 155-171.

Aknin, L.B.*, Sandstrom, G.M.*, Dunn, E.W. & Norton, M.I. (2011). It’s the recipient that counts: Spending money on strong social ties leads to greater happiness than spending on weak social ties. PLos ONE, 6(2), e17018. doi:10.1371/journale.pone.0017018.

  • *First authorship equal and listed alphabetically

Aknin, L.B, Sandstrom, G.M., Dunn, E.W., & Norton, M.I. (2010). Investing in Others: Prosocial Spending for (Pro)Social Change. In R. Biswas-Diener (Ed.), Positive Psychology as Social Change. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Selected Media Coverage