The University of Sussex has 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 to investigate the impact of kindness on people and communities. It’s the brainchild of Professor Robin Banerjee, who founded the research group after identifying how kindness plays a critical role in creating a positive culture in schools. Director is Dr Gillian Sandstrom, whose specialism is the benefit of speaking to strangers.

The formation of the Centre builds on the University’s existing expertise and research capabilities. This includes The Kindness Test, a project 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.

The Centre was publicly launched in March by Claudia Hammond, 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 – a book examining how you can be kinder to yourself and others.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sasha Roseneil, explained: “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 Sandstrom added: “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.”

Previous research into kindness at the University 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.

More information can be found online.