596: Kindness Priming

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
596: Kindness Priming

What’s the last random kind thing someone did for you?

Full episode script

Kindness isn’t a new topic on this show – we’ve talked about even random acts of kindness specifically in episodes 409 and 559. What we didn’t cover in those episodes, though, and what I find a very intriguing effect – is one called kindness priming.


This particular effect, which has been studied in some form since the 1980s, theorizes that when we recall or experience something kind or nice or affirming or positive (depending on which study you read), the more likely you are to notice the kind or nice or positive things around you.


What I find particularly interesting about this is the fact that, depending on where you look, you can find arguments that humans remember either positive or negative events more strongly. In a 2012 article of The New York Times article, the author explains in support of the idea we remember negative events better, quote:

“This is a general tendency for everyone,” said Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University. “Some people do have a more positive outlook, but almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail.” Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University, captured the idea in the title of a journal article he co-authored in 2001, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good,” which appeared in The Review of General Psychology. “Research over and over again shows this is a basic and wide-ranging principle of psychology,” he said. “It’s in human nature, and there are even signs of it in animals,” in experiments with rats.


However, a 2014 article from the BBC argued the opposite, saying, quote:

Researchers suggest it could be that good memories persist longer than bad – helping to keep the human race happy and resilient. Psychologists say that holding onto our good memories – and leaving the bad ones behind – helps us to deal with unpleasant situations and retain a positive outlook on life. The authors believe this study shows that the faster fading of unpleasant memories is a pan-cultural phenomenon and this helps individuals to process negativity and adapt to changes in their environment whilst retaining a positive outlook on life.


So no matter which thing we remember better – bad or good – taking the time to think about kindness that you’ve experienced would likely not hurt. So…

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.