(RxWiki News) Countless movies and books have focused on that elusive question for children and teens: How can I be more popular? One answer is surprisingly simple: Perform random acts of kindness.
A recent study found that grade school children became more popular when they spent a month doing random kind acts. They did whatever kind acts they wished three times a week for whomever they wanted.
At the end of the study, the children performing random acts of kindness gained about 1.5 friends, even though their happiness remained about the same as other children's.
"Perform random acts of kindness."
The study, led by Kristin Layous, from the Department of Psychology at the University of California at Riverside, aimed to find out whether performing random acts of kindness influenced children's well-being or popularity.
The researchers randomly assigned 415 students, aged 9 to 12, from 19 different classrooms into two groups. One group was interacted to "perform three acts of kindness" each week, for anyone they wanted, over a four-week period.
The other group was asked to visit three places of their choice each week over the same four weeks. Before the four-week period began, the students filled out three psychological assessment to determine their life satisfaction, happiness and positiveness.
They also were given a roster of their classmates' names and asked to circle as many or as few names as they wanted of fellow students they would like to be involved in school activities with to measure popularity of each student.
The study was done toward the end of the school year, when most students already knew each other. After the four weeks, the students took the same three assessments for satisfaction and happiness and then were asked to write down the names of classmates they would like to work with.
The researchers saw significant increases in the positivity of all the children in the study and slight increases in all the children's life satisfaction and happiness.
All the students also received more endorsements from their classmates after the four weeks, but those who performed random acts of kindness received significantly more nominations from their classmates than those who visited places, indicating that the kind-acting students achieved higher popularity.
Specifically, the students who did kind acts over the four weeks gained about 1.5 friends, regardless of how many students were in their classroom.
Because the changes in well-being, happiness and positiveness were not significantly different in both groups, the researchers determined that it was the "effect of performing acts of kindness" that increased those students' popularity and acceptance among their peers.
Among the kind acts the students reported doing were giving someone else their lunch, vacuuming the floor or hugging their mom when she felt stressed from work.
The students who visited locations chose to visit places like a shopping center, a grandmother's house or a baseball diamond.
The study was published December 26 in the journal PLOS ONE. The authors did not use external funding, and reported no conflicts of interest.