Interest in arts predicts social responsibility

Aug 17, 2012

(Phys.org) -- If you sing, dance, draw, or act -- and especially if you watch others do so -- you probably have an altruistic streak, according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

People with an active interest in the arts contribute more to society than those with little or no such interest, the researchers found. They analyzed arts exposure, defined as attendance at museums and dance, music, opera and theater events; and arts expression, defined as making or performing art.

"Even after controlling for age, race and education, we found that participation in the arts, especially as audience, predicted , tolerance and ," said Kelly LeRoux, assistant professor of public administration at UIC and principal investigator on the study.

In contrast to earlier studies, respondents were found to be more civically engaged than older people.

LeRoux's data came from the General Social Survey, conducted since 1972 by the National Data Program for the Sciences, known by its original initials, NORC. A national sample of 2,765 randomly selected adults participated.

"We correlated survey responses to arts-related questions to responses on altruistic actions -- like , donating money, giving directions, or doing favors for a neighbor -- that place the interests of others over the interests of self," LeRoux said. "We looked at 'norms of civility.' Previous studies have established norms for volunteering and being active in organizations."

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

They measured social tolerance by two variables:

--Gender-orientation tolerance, measured by whether respondents would agree to having gay persons speak in their community or teach in public schools, and whether they would oppose having homosexually themed books in the library.

--Racial tolerance, measured by responses regarding various racial and ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. Eighty percent of the study respondents were Caucasian, LeRoux said.

The researchers measured altruistic behavior by whether respondents said they had allowed a stranger to go ahead of them in line, carried a stranger’s belongings, donated blood, given directions to a stranger, lent someone an item of value, returned money to a cashier who had given too much change, or looked after a neighbor’s pets, plants or mail.

"If policymakers are concerned about a decline in community life, the arts shouldn't be disregarded as a means to promote an active citizenry," LeRoux said. "Our positive findings could strengthen the case for government support for the arts."

The study was based on data from 2002, the most recent year in which the covered arts participation. LeRoux plans to repeat the study with results from the 2012 survey, which will include arts data.

The UIC research was part of a nationwide effort funded by the National Endowment for the Arts to learn how individuals' exposure to the affects American society. Fifteen institutions across the country designed and conducted various studies.

Explore further: Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A rare survey of the one percent

Dec 06, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Though little reliable survey research exists about the nation’s wealthiest one percent, public discourse is rife with claims about their opinions and attitudes. Now a Northwestern University pilot study ...

Arts good for the psyche

Jun 04, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Youth who do arts are psychologically better off than those who do not, a new study from Victoria University shows.

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

4 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

7 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

19 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dan42day
1 / 5 (1) Aug 17, 2012
So how do you explain entertainment industry executives?

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Is Parkinson's an autoimmune disease?

The cause of neuronal death in Parkinson's disease is still unknown, but a new study proposes that neurons may be mistaken for foreign invaders and killed by the person's own immune system, similar to the ...