October 19, 2018

Arts and Prosocial Research Group meeting | September, 2018

On Monday 24th September the Arts & Prosocial behaviour Group (APRG) met for their first meeting of the new academic year. This interdisciplinary group brings together academics, students,
artists, and practitioners to explore how the arts (in its many forms) can nurture prosocial behaviour, acts of kindness, and wellbeing. Hosted by the School of Psychology at the University of Kent, in collaboration with People United, these meetings are held on the last Monday of every month during term time, with a different speaker for each session.

This month we had the pleasure of hearing from Shazza Ali, a PhD student at Kent who works with People United. Her research focuses on the development of prosocial behaviour in children, and she recently returned from a research internship at the University of Toronto where she was working in the Social-Emotional Developmental and Intervention Lab (SEDI) under the guidance of Professor Tina Malti, an expert in the development of aggression in children. Shazza gave a fascinating overview of the kinds of research projects that were going on in the lab whilst she was on placement, plus an insight into what the city of Toronto was like in terms of engagement with the arts. For example, one of the projects was exploring how best the local community could help Syrian refugee children integrate into society, and used both structured and open-ended questions to find out about their experience in Canada so far. Other projects were centred on the development of emotions, especially sympathy and guilt.


Past research on these emotions lead to the discovery of a thing called ‘The happy victimizer effect’. In these kinds of projects, young children were read stories by a researcher (e.g., The chocolate bar story). In the chocolate bar story, a chocolate bar was stolen from someone’s bag. Children were asked how they thought both the victim and the perpetrator might feel. Children’s responses were then coded to provide an insight into whether they had developed an understanding of morality; for example, the youngest children tended to say that the perpetrator would feel happy because they now had the chocolate bar, whereas older children were more likely to say that the perpetrator would feel bad or guilty because they had stolen something; showing a developmental trend in the understanding of moral emotion.

The current projects going on in the SEDI lab used additional equipment to further explore the development of moral emotions. Shazza also summarised other projects about early childhood intervention and mentioned that singing and role play are often used as an intervention to support children’s early social-emotional development. For further information on the SEDI lab and their work see www.tinamalti.com.

In terms of arts engagement in Toronto; Shazza gave it a very positive review! She spoke to us about the street art in the city, the weekly music concerts and jazz festivals throughout the summer, plus numerous art shows and exhibitions that were often free to attend. Shazza also described the abundance of space for artists and new creatives in the city, as well as dedicated platforms and zines for this community.

Thank you, Shazza, for your interesting and informative talk that gave us all lots to think about! We are very excited that next month we will be hosting our first international speaker! Dr.Chiao-I Tseng, a research associate at the University of Bremen, will be visiting us to present her work exploring multi-modal narratives in visual images, film and graphic media. For further information about Dr. Tseng’s talk please click here.

If you would like to know more about the APRG or join the mailing list, please email [email protected] with your details.

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