The University of Sussex launches UK’s first centre on the study of kindness

Professor Robin Banerjee, Claudia Hammond and Dr Gillian Sandstrom at the Sussex
Professor Robin Banerjee, Claudia Hammond and Dr Gillian Sandstrom at the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness external launch

The University of Sussex has, on Thursday 23 March, publicly launched the first academic research centre in the UK dedicated to the study of kindness.

The Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness brings together researchers from across the University with expertise in psychology, business, education, social work, medical practice and media to investigate the impact of kindness on people and communities.

The formation of the Centre builds on existing expertise and various research being conducted into the study of kindness at the University. This includes The Kindness Test , a project led by a team of researchers in the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness , based at the University of Sussex, in partnership with BBC Radio 4. Its aim is to learn more about how people’s attitudes and experiences might vary across different groups, and how experiences of kindness might relate to health, well-being, and other social and psychological experiences.

The Centre is also home to the UK’s first ever university course on the Psychology of Kindness and Wellbeing at Work. The online Post-Graduate Certificate course was developed by academics from the School of Psychology and Business School. It teaches students the skills to create a successful workplace based on positive organisational cultures.

Professor Sasha Roseneil , Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, said:

"The University of Sussex has been cultivating a distinctive specialism in research into kindness in recent years.. After the huge upheavals and disruptions to everyday life experienced around the world during the pandemic, the launch of the UK’s first research centre focused on the study of kindness is very timely..

"From previous neuroscience research at Sussex, we know that the warm glow of kindness is real, and that kindness benefits both the giver and receiver of the kind act. Indeed, kindness may be the key to connecting people so that we can work together to tackle some of the pressing societal challenges that we are facing in the world right now."

Building on initial support from Kindness UK to develop a network of researchers focused on kindness, the Centre has received funding for three years from the Pears Foundation to grow expertise around kindness, help organisations access academic research on kindness, and shine a light on kindness. The Centre plans to deliver a series of academic and public-facing talks on kindness as a fundamental part of human wellbeing.

Dr Gillian Sandstrom, Senior Lecturer in the Psychology of Kindness and Director of the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness at the University of Sussex said:

"As someone whose academic research focuses on the importance of talking to strangers, I am so pleased that the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness is officially out there in the world. As a team, we will actively be looking for ways to collaborate with organisations and local communities to share our cutting-edge research with the aim of helping people to make the world a little kinder."

Claudia Hammond hosted the public launch event. Hammond is a BBC broadcaster and Visiting Professor for the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University, as well as the author of The Keys to Kindness

Panellists at the launch event included Professor Martin Spinelli from the University of Sussex School of Media, Arts and Humanities, who focussed on innovative multimedia resources to promote kindness in school settings; Dr Nicky McCrudden, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and doctoral researcher from the University of Sussex Business School, who discussed the value of kindness in the workplace; and Dr Liz McDonnell from the School of Law, Politics and Sociology who explored kindness in the community.

Joining the panellists and Claudia Hammond were Head of the School of Psychology and founder of the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness, Professor Robin Banerjee and Dr Gillian Sandstrom. It was Professor Banerjee who had the idea to start a research group into kindness after identifying how critical kindness was in creating a positive culture in school settings. Senior Lecturer in the Psychology of Kindness, Dr Sandstrom, who is the Director of the Centre, joined the University last year to launch and lead the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness after developing a specialism in the benefits of speaking to strangers.

Notable previous research into kindness from the University of Sussex includes a study into the neuroscience of charitable giving, which found that acts of kindness benefit both the giver and receiver; an investigation into the factors that influence individuals’ intentions to be kind; an exploration into the connection between kind behaviours in adolescents and their wellbeing; and the potential effects of seeing kindness in our engagement with social media.