People who engage with the arts are more likely to be charitable donors and volunteers, a new study has found.
Engagement in the arts could be key to countering cultural and political divisions in the UK, according to a new study.
Research, co-ordinated by psychologists at the University of Kent, shows that arts engagement can act as a catalyst that fosters social co-operation and bridges divisions in society.
The authors conclude that substantial social and economic gains can flow when arts investment is targeted at making cultural opportunities more widely available and doesn’t just benefit the wealthy.
They said: “Fostering a society in which engagement in the arts is encouraged and accessible to all may provide an important counter to economic, cultural, and political fracture and division.”
A wide-reaching survey
The research is based on data from over 30,000 respondents to the annual national longitudinal attitude survey, Understanding Society, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Those who engage with the arts were found to be more likely to volunteer and give to charity – behaviour described as ‘prosociality’ – over a two-year period. Arts engagement was a stronger predictor of these behaviours than characteristics such as gender, personal income, personality and involvement in sports.
The researchers also found some, but much weaker, evidence that volunteering and charitable giving are predictors of future arts engagement.
Only age and monthly savings were found to be better predictors of charitable giving; and only educational level and working hours had a larger effect on volunteering.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Dominic Abrams described it as “remarkable” that “regardless of people’s age, education, employment and savings their engagement with the arts remained a stronger predictor of their prosociality than did any other variables.”
Researcher and report author Dr Van de Vyver echoed his comments, adding: “It is particularly impressive that people who engaged more with the arts two years earlier continue to show even greater prosociality now.”
The findings of the study are reported in ‘The Arts as a Catalyst for Human Prosociality and Cooperation’ in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science.