Archive for May 7th, 2012
Close on the heels of a report claiming that Christians are more generous than other people, a new study by Plymouth University’s School of Psychology has now lent considerable support to the notion that prisoners often exhibit higher-than-normal levels of generosity and willingness to volunteer.
An experiment was carried out, involving 50 inmates and 50 ordinary members of the public, to test people’s willingness to part with hard-earned money or share hand-outs to assist others. The public were on average prepared to give away less than a third of any sum handed over to them, whereas prisoners willingly relinquished almost half. And inmates were happy to donate between 5 and 10% of their monthly income – far more than is the case with the general public.
It has been suggested that a desire to atone for wrongdoing may be behind this behaviour. However, it clearly shows that not all inmates are inherently bad, or always behave in a way that our usual stereotypes would lead us to expect.
The study aims to be more than just an academic exercise: quoting other work that has linked volunteering with wellbeing and happiness, the researchers suggest that perhaps reoffending rates could be lowered by encouraging volunteering and other generous, constructive behaviour within prison environments. Aside from helping the prisoners this would also be of value to potential recipients – “a win-win situation”, as they point out.
Hmm… now there’s an interesting idea!