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Lessons for life: Is kindness contagious?

By Jen Weigel
Chicago Tribune

Can kindness be contagious? According to the new documentary “Good Virus,” if you do something nice – or even see someone do something nice – you’re more likely to spread those good vibes to others.

“My wife said that all my projects were getting very dark and cynical and I said, ‘Great – then I might just do a movie all about being nice,’” said filmmaker David Gaz, director of “Good Virus.”

Gaz said he became curious about the power of kindness after reading an article about James Fowler, co-author of the book, “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives” (Back Bay Books).

“In Fowler’s research,” Gaz said, “he showed that if I do something nice for you, you will do something nice for four other people, on average. I always like to have concrete examples and proof and the logic behind it. So when I was reading about his study I was kind of blown away.”

For his documentary, he interviewed Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Keltner looks at the roots of evolution and why we are nice to people when it seems we have no advantage to be nice to people,” Gaz said. “He found it was sort of rooted in evolution. Human babies take a long time to mature compared to animals. When they are first born they’re pretty darnn helpless. He says the reason we are nice to people is we have to form these cooperative groups in order to raise our kids and to pass our genes on to future generations. If you notice, we’re a social species like bees and ants. … Working together is what makes us cooperate as a species.”

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