Yaneva, Miroslava (2018) A Study of Kindness: Theoretical and Empirical Development of a Neglected Interpersonal Trait. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

A growing body of literature underscores the importance of studying kindness. Despite the concept’s apparent popularity in academic research, it is, in fact, rather vague and suffers a few important deficits. Firstly, a vast majority of sources tend to use just a single act of kindness (e.g. giving directions) to distinguish between groups of individuals. Second, kindness is understood from a rather unidimensional perspective that is either the idea that empathy leads to kindness or that kindness is based mostly on principles, rather than considering the possibility for multidimensionality. Finally, this growing interest in the study of kindness, as indicated by a number of investigative approaches, is lacking one important detail, that is a formal measure for evaluating kindness in terms of its independent status as a human quality.

In order to address the above deficits this thesis examined the concept of kindness from a perspective of multidimensionality, using the principles of Facet Theory. The items in the questionnaire were based on six main facets of kindness drawn from previous research e.g. manifestation, form of expression, recipients, benefit, cost, and anonymity. The hypothesised items were tested on 165 participants of the British general population and analysed using a multidimensional scaling procedure, known as Smallest Space Analysis (SSA-I) and traditional psychometric analyses. This gave rise to three distinct modes of kindness: Benign Tolerance, Empathetic Responsivity, and Principle Proaction. In addition, the SSA-I configuration pointed at a core element, central to the three modes illustrating an essence to kindness that is not a product of social learning. This newly discovered concept was termed Anthropophilia.

The Facet approach undertaken in this thesis allowed for the modification of the initial definitional framework in order to address the pilot findings. The updated measure was then tested on a total of 1 039 participants as part of an extensive survey across the British general population. This revealed that four possible combinations of facets (source and expression of kindness) gave rise to four modes of kindness: Affective Socially Prescribed, Affective Proactive, Principle Socially Prescribed and Principle Proactive modes, as well as a more pronounced form of Anthropophilia.

Besides the various structural validations and reliability analyses, the kindness measure was further validated through a correlational investigation that included similar to kindness measures (empathy), dissimilar measures (Machiavellianism, psychopathy) and measures of personality (Big Five). A number of correlations were carried out on 251 individuals, including the five kindness modes and each of the scales in the other measures. The findings supported all of the predictions and revealed moderate correlations between the kindness measure and the other measures indicating that the scales are independent (from others) constructs.

FINAL THESIS - YANEVA.pdf - Accepted Version
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