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Injustice in a Group Boosts Willingness to Volunteer

Research from New York University suggests a counter intuitive notion: A  sense of unfairness can actually increase volunteerism. Why? It turns out that when people who strongly identify with a group receive information indicating that their group is procedurally unjust, their motivation to engage in group-serving behavior tends to increase.This new study by psychologist Heather Barry, Ph.D., was conducted using students at New York University, rather than members of a religious group. As Dr. Barry writes, “These students have a history with their university, have given money to it, often live in university housing, visit university facilities frequently, and interact with fellow students, professors, and administrative personnel on a daily basis.”In other words, their membership is “impermeable,” especially for those who strongly identify with the university community. Barry first tested how much the students identified with the university. Then she gave them what was purported to be a reading comprehension test, created to look like the official NYU website. The fake test described the university …

Stephen Kiesling is a former Olympic rower, cocreator of the Nike Cross Training System, and editor at large of Spirituality & Health. A 35th anniversary edition of The Shell Game: Reflections on Rowing and the Pursuit of Excellence has just been published.

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