Akua Agyen

Akua Agyen

Anthropology

Project Title: Combing for Evidence

Akua studies how institutions tasked with care, instead enact violence in Black communities. More specifically, through ethnography, feminist science and technology studies, and Black feminist theory, they explore how historical legacies of racism in medicine and law in the U.S. endure in hospital-based sexual assault response. Akua does this work with the aim of reimagining models of care that are Black feminist, queer, and abolitionist.

Steven Ammerman

Steven Ammerman

Anthropology

Project Title: Meat Avoidance as an Expression of Kindness

My project relates to vegetarianism and its relationship to kindness. In my dissertation research, I use archaeological and textual evidence to examine the changing relationships between humans and animals in ancient India during the time that Buddhism and Jainism, religions which specifically recommend non-violence toward animals, were becoming established in eastern India. For this project, I collaborate with Professor Monica Smith in the Department of Anthropology to build upon the historical context to examine whether kindness is always a primary motivating factor in the decision to reduce meat consumption. Beyond the historical lens, we also examine how the modern social climate, particularly that created by the COVID-19 pandemic, has transformed discourses around vegetarianism and veganism by analyzing the prevalence of these topics in international main-stream online news media and comments on these articles.

Alina Arseniev-Koehler

Alina Arseniev-Koehler

Sociology

Project Title: Scripts of Violence: Understanding the Intention to Harm

Aggression — a perfect counterpose to kindness — is characterized by an intention to inflict harm on oneself or another being. At its most extreme, aggression is lethal, resulting in violent death such as homicide and suicide. One potential factor to aggression are scripts: these are simplified and widely known sequences of aggressive interactions, which define and may guide aggressive behavior. In this project, I propose to identify scripts (commonly occurring sequences of interaction) within violent incidents, and do so at scale. I will use written summaries of over 300,000 violent death incidents across the U.S., compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, and I will use text analysis methods to model the sequence of events in these summaries. By studying the micro-patterns in violent incidents at macro-scale, we can gain nuanced insight into how aggression escalates and potential points at which we can intervene.

Amanda Jean Bailey

Amanda Jean Bailey

Anthropology

Project Title: Conceptualizing an Ethic of Care Among Natural Resources Students at a Tribal College

My project is based on long-term ethnographic research at a tribal college in Montana, among a cohort of students who are close to completing their degrees in either hydrology or wildlife and fisheries. I examine the ways an ethics of care develops as part of the everyday interactional landscape of the college community, represented in locally-valued acts of kindness, as well as language that is grounded in recognition and advocacy. I also analyze the relationship between an interaction-based ethics of care and the approaches students develop for protecting and managing wildlife, land, and water in a professional capacity once they graduate.

Elena Maker Castro

Elena Maker Castro

Human Development and Psychology

Project Title: Critical Social Media: Exploring Immigrant-Origin Youth’s Civic Kindness Online

This qualitative study will explore how immigrant-origin young adults in the United States express civic kindness (encompassing both political and prosocial behaviors) on social media, as well as how their immigrant identity may shape their civic kindness on social media. In this study, civic kindness is conceptualized as a behavior that aims to empower, amplify, or increase empathy for marginalized groups. Themes will emerge during analysis, but could include allyship, providing emotional support, participating in digital social or political action, or building empowering online communities. The sample of 30 participants has been recruited through Twitter direct messaging, and data units will include an estimated 3,000 tweets and 10-15 interview transcripts. The research team includes Dr. Laura Wray-Lake (Social Welfare) and Dr. Carola Suárez-Orozco (Education).

Gloria Danqiao Cheng

Gloria Danqiao Cheng

Management and Organizations, UCLA Anderson School of Management

Project Title: The Power of Appreciation Letters: Promoting Gratitude Expression in the COVID-19 Pandemic

In this research, we investigate factors that promote voluntary gratitude expression towards essential workers working on the frontline in the COVID-19 pandemic. Expressing gratitude provides a variety of psychological and social benefits to both people who express and receive gratitude, and we argue that promoting expression of gratitude towards essential workers in the pandemic has important implications in alleviating workers’ burnout and facilitating a sense of meaningfulness among expressers. Collaborating with an appreciation letter writing campaign, we will conduct field and experimental studies that examine how to frame outreach messages to motivate more people to volunteer writing quality letters of gratitude. We will focus on factors such as invoking a sense of collectiveness versus individuality and test whether certain framing is more effective in encouraging more people to write letters or in increasing letter quality.

Merabi George Chkhenkeli

Merabi George Chkhenkeli

Political Science

Project Title: The Impact of Rapid Societal Change on Values, Prosociality, and Cooperation

I am interested in how attitudes and behaviours relating to prosociality and cooperation are affected by wide-scale societal and political changes. As a BKI Summer Fellow, I am working on the early stages of two projects, both in Southeast Asia. The first examines baseline levels of prosociality in a highly underdeveloped region of hill tribespeople in upland Myanmar. The project aims to measure long-term changes as a result of rapid development and increasing exposure to the outside world, accelerated by the construction of mobile phone towers and the provision of cell and Internet connectivity. The second project examines how the COVID-19 pandemic, as a moment of both heightened public anxiety and interdependence, is shaping values relating to kindness, cooperation, and conflict.

Marcie Haydon

Marcie Haydon

Psychology

Project Title: Does Peer Helping Promote Well-Being in AYA Cancer Survivors?: A Randomized Controlled Trial Testing the Benefits of an Online Prosocial Intervention

Short, online prosocial interventions have been shown to promote well-being and improve physical health. To date, however, these interventions have primarily been conducted among healthy individuals. Adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors (age 15 to 39 years at diagnosis) are one population that may benefit from prosocial interventions, though this has yet to be tested. Recent literature suggests that giving to others may help AYAs to acquire social and psychological resources critical to healthy development. Further, AYA cancer survivors often report a desire to “give back” following treatment but may feel that they lack the expertise or opportunity to do so.

Delaney Knorr

Delaney Knorr

Anthropology

Project Title: Exploring the cultural factors involved in social support and mental health among first-time Latina mothers

Post-partum women are often in need of selfless acts of kindness from others due to the overwhelming needs of their new baby. For most of our evolutionary history, this support was likely freely offered in the form of child care or direct provisioning from both kin and non-kin. However, due to the complex realities of the globalized world, this ideal is not always realized. In fact, immigration, family separation, poverty, and other factors may interrupt the free exchange of help within a social network. Cultural values may serve to further hinder requests for these acts of support, especially when social networks are small. This project aims to explore the cultural factors surrounding the expectations for, hindrances to, and mobilization of receiving social support for first-time Latina mothers. The support received from the individuals’ own mother (the baby‘s grandmother, who has been identified by biological anthropologists as holding an important role in the reproductive success of her children) is of particular interest in comparison to the support received from the baby’s father, paternal grandmother, and unrelated groups of women. Moreover, this project explores how support and lack of support from kin and non-kin influence new mothers’ mental health. This work represents a unique contribution to anthropological and public health literature by approaching questions of stressors and social support from an evolutionary, cultural, and psychological perspective.

Lee Lazar

Lee Lazar

Psychology

Project Title: Neurobehavioral Development of Prosocial Behavior

Adolescence is a key period of social-cognitive and affective development, setting the stage of the rest of one’s life. However, research focused on adolescence has mainly examined risk-taking and ‘negative’ behaviors that arise during this period, suggesting that prosocial behaviors may be stunted during this time. This is quite puzzling, as the social-cognitive abilities that underlie positive behaviors, particularly prosocial behavior, increase dramatically throughout this period.

That being said, this research project aims to fill this gap in knowledge by studying prosocial behavior in a more nuanced manner; examining who adolescents choose to give to, when they choose to give, and how these factors manifest within the developing brain. Understanding the factors that contribute to giving behavior, and how it evolves throughout this key period of development, can lead to more tailored approaches to increasing prosociality. Increasing prosocial behavior, particularly at such a key period of development, is crucial for both fostering acts of kindness and reframing adolescence as a time of opportunity.

Melissa Q.T. Nguyen

Melissa Q.T. Nguyen

Law and Political Science

Project Title: Legal Incentives that Promote Kindness

I am currently a J.D. / Ph.D. dual degree candidate with the UCLA School of Law, where I am pursuing a specialization in tax law and taxation policy; and the UCLA Department of Political Science, where I conduct research on criminal deterrence and I apply political theory to real-world issues.
My project for the BKI conceptualizes kindness as something that is commendable, but not required. Thus, instead of imposing punishments when kindness is not seen, a more effective and ethical policy is to promote kindness by rewarding kind actions. Hence, my interdisciplinary research draws from comparative law, taxation law, and moral philosophy to examine the legal structures that can encourage members of society to take action for others’ benefit.

Ian Peacock

Ian Peacock

Sociology

Project Title: Policies make perspectives: On the relationship between immigration policy and public sentiment

I want to understand what role laws play in promoting pro-social and anti-social behavior and feelings. To do this, my project relies on a case-study of immigration policies. I take advantage of timing and geographic differences in the enactment of identical policies across localities in the United States to see how these policies predict changes in the way public officials, journalists, and the public talk and feel about immigrants based on data from internet activity, newspapers, government records, and a host of other sources.

Sonya Rao

Sonya Rao

Anthropology

Project Title: Communicative Kindness in the Asylum Process

In this research I investigate the extra, intensive work that legal interpreters, judges, and attorneys put in to assist asylum seekers to understand complex legal processes. I search for evidence that points to how to construct a more effective, equitable working environment for courtroom professionals and better language access for court users.

Pranav Shetty

Pranav Shetty

Epidemiology

Project Title: The Impact of Addressing Food Insecurity on Kindness and Social Cohesion: A Study of the Harbor-UCLA Food Pharmacy

Los Angeles County has the highest rate of food insecurity in the United States and the Harbor-UCLA Food Pharmacy assists patients and the surrounding community through the provision of free fresh fruits and vegetables. Volunteerism is vital to building community cohesion and recipients of kindness often “pay it forward” through performing kind acts of their own for others. This study will look at attitudes and perceptions of volunteers and recipients of a food insecurity intervention on prosocial behaviors and community cohesion.

Danielle Steinberg

Danielle Steinberg

Anthropology

Project Title:Promoting charitable donations to zoos during pandemic closure: applying economic and social theory to maximize remote empathy and kindness

This study aims to determine methods in which zoos can most effectively and efficiently promote public engagement and procure charitable donations during the COVID-19 pandemic closure, or any extended closure. I am working with the Santa Ana Zoo where I am creating ten pairs of short, informational videos that will be shared on the zoo’s popular Facebook page. Each pair of videos will be testing one of five variables derived from theory in a variety of fields in social science of what promotes kindness by maximizing a variable in one video, minimizing it in the other, and directly comparing them via "likes", "shares", comments, and amount of donations received. Ultimately, I plan to create a document advising zoos on how to continue promoting public engagement and collecting donations as effectively and efficiently as possible during this time and during any other period of extended closure.

Matei Traian Tichindelean

Matei Traian Tichindelean

Cotsen Institute of Archaeology

Project Title: Cooperation in Egypt’s Eastern Desert

My research aims to challenge both the ancient and early-modern traditional narratives of warfare and competition between the ancient Egyptian state and the peoples inhabiting the Eastern Desert (a large area of land located between the Nile river and the Red Sea). By examining archaeological and ethnographic data, I plan to re-characterize the nature of this relationship, demonstrating that cooperational strategies, and not competition, dominated the nature of Egyptian state-desert peoples interactions. By focusing on reputation (characterized by the classic example of "tit-for-tat") and rewards, my summer research will attempt to describe and understand the way that altruistic actions lead to an increase in reputation, which in turn, maximizes rewards for both major parties.

王悠 Wáng, Yōu

王悠 Wáng, Yōu

History

Project Title: Collaborating for Grand Peace: Villages, Lineages, and the Formation of Social Bonds

My research is situated in the economic center, the lower Yangzi delta, of Qing China (ca. 1644-1912) and examines the emergence of long-enduring collaboration among villages with shared water systems. It focuses on rural communities living alongside the Taiping River (literally, the River of Grand Peace). Specifically, it explores social contexts of the river basin; it also investigates how individual farmers, despite their different lineage and socioeconomic status, forged a strong and lasting bond with one another, generating kindness, devotion, and commitment to regularly repair the river for nearly two centuries and thus promote the well-being of the entire area.

Sara Wilf

Sara Wilf

Social Welfare

Project Title: Critical Social Media: Exploring Immigrant-Origin Youth’s Civic Kindness Online

This qualitative study will explore how immigrant-origin young adults in the United States express civic kindness (encompassing both political and prosocial behaviors) on social media, as well as how their immigrant identity may shape their civic kindness on social media. In this study, civic kindness is conceptualized as a behavior that aims to empower, amplify, or increase empathy for marginalized groups. Themes will emerge during analysis, but could include allyship, providing emotional support, participating in digital social or political action, or building empowering online communities. The sample of 30 participants has been recruited through Twitter direct messaging, and data units will include an estimated 3,000 tweets and 10-15 interview transcripts. The research team includes Dr. Laura Wray-Lake (Social Welfare) and Dr. Carola Suárez-Orozco (Education).

dept course # title instructor Course Description
AM IND 19 Universal Basic Incomes, Poverty and Children’s Outcomes Randall Akee Examination of newest research and analysis about antipoverty programs, and their effect on household income and children’s outcomes. Study looks at two programs among most important in changing household income and helping to move families out of poverty: tax credits and universal incomes. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) offers reduction in parents’ tax liability in certain low-income households. Examination of effect this program has on children. We will also examine Existing examples of universal basic income (UBI) programs in U.S. offer money from institutional sources. One case focuses on cash transfers from casino operations on American Indian reservations to enrolled tribal members, and outcomes for their children. Another case examines distribution from Alaska Permanent Fund and outcomes for Alaska residents. Class analysis informs debate on these programs, and their impact on children in particular.
AM IND 19 Income and Wealth Inequality by Race Randall Akee Examination of newest research and analysis about income and wealth inequality in U.S., including evidence of increasing inequality over past few decades. Inequality is important measure of well-being and generosity of societies. These basic concepts are driven by government policies in taxation and programs. Therefore, degree to which inequality persists in country or community is measure of preferences and desires of population to create egalitarian and equitable society. Brief focus on intergenerational income mobility across parents and children. Discussion of economic inequality and persistence of this phenomenon. Examination of how this affects different race and ethnic groups in U.S., such as American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Focus also on Asian Americans, Hispanics, and other larger ethnic and racial groups.
ASIAN 19 The (non)Existence of Kindness Mahajan Gyanam Analysis of linguistic frames associated with words kind or kindness, and phrases that use these words, such as random acts of kindness. It is proposed that English is rare language with word for notion of kindness. Translated words in several related languages seem to refer to component features of kindness such as compassion, genteelness, gentility, goodness, pity, etc.; but not full frame of kindness. Analysis associated with these words in terms of status of giver and recipient. Consideration of suggestion that while kindness is neutral term, translated words such as pity, goodness, or gentility elevate status of doer and lower status of recipient. Consideration of practices and perspectives associated with this word in different languages and cultures; and proposal that acts of kindness are simply mundane acts required by various cultures.
COM LIT 19 Saintliness and Kindness Eleanor Kaufman Examination of behavior of saints or saintly figures in the Christian tradition, with consideration of how this behavior relates to kindness. Focus on instances where saintly figure in question may act in way that is considered unkind or irresponsible by certain standards: for example in choosing higher goals over family interests, or renouncing worldly duties to pursue life of devotion. Consideration of ascetic practices that entail considerable unkindness to self. Short readings span Christian tradition from gospels to Augustine, desert fathers, medieval mystics, and Aquinas; and modern period figures such as Therese of Lisieux, Simone Weil, Mother Theresa, and liberation theologians.
ENGL 19 The Ethic of Care and Aesthetic Allure: Alternative Gender Ideals King-Kok  Cheung Exploration of allures of wen (literary and cultural attainment) and ethic of care as romantic attraction in and between men and women of all sexual persuasions. Study invites writers to discuss their works.
HNRS 19 Work on Happy Jacob Bortnik Whether student or professor; whether chosen field of study is history, music, sports, or business; all want to work more creatively, efficiently, and productively. All want to attain success and find joy in work. But how can this be accomplished? What are ingredients, habits, and thought processes one needs to cultivate now to achieve this elusive goal? Students view series of talks by leading experts on various topics including work and happiness, mastery (flow), gratitude, grit, resilience, stress, and meaning. Each meeting includes brief presentation followed by moderated group discussion. Students keep journal and reflect on each topic covered. Students gain deeper understanding of what makes for successful life/career; and to have put in place many of foundational habits that nudge them in this direction.
MUSIC 19 Fostering Kindness to Self & Others: Cultivating Music & Cultural Understanding Lily Chen-Hafteck Music is important form of cultural expression: one can learn much about culture through its music. Research studies have shown that music has capacity to promote empathy and cultural understanding; and that learning songs from foreign cultures can result in students developing more positive racial attitude towards people from those cultures. Students discover relationship between music and culture. Through research literature, they learn about effects of music on developing cultural understanding and positive racial attitude. Students explore their own musical and cultural backgrounds through research and reflections, and share those with class. Students become community that learns from each other, and develops understanding of each others’ music and cultures. This fosters kindness to self and others in group.
MUSIC 19 Exploring and Expressing Kindness through Music Frank Heuser Songwriters frequently use their art to explore issues of social concern and unite people for purposes of creating solidarity, expressing dissent and nurturing feelings of kindness. Musical interactions between individuals make us emotionally attuned to other people, and arouses feelings of kindness. Creating and making music in groups allows individuals to feel more empathetic and connected to other people. Examination of how songwriters have used music to evoke feelings of kindness. Analysis of different songs that express empathy and kindness. Students use online digital audio workstation (DAW) to work collaboratively to create songs that evoke and encourage kindness to others. DAW allows individuals with limited formal music training to create and record songs almost effortlessly, by combining digitally available musical loops and sounds. By working collaboratively to express mutually determined emotions related to kindness, students experience communal intentionality that should nurture dispositions of kindness.
PUB AFF 19 UCLA Centennial Initiative: Communicating a Centennial of Kindness at UCLA Lene Levy-Storms Until recently, UCLA had been world-renowned mostly for its research and teaching. But now, in its 100th year, UCLA has established Bedari Kindness Institute–and world is learning about that. Exploration of how kindness has long been present at UCLA, during its past 100 years through today. Students experience kindness in classroom and about campus. Students read about and discuss kindness at UCLA through articles about faculty, staff, and students; and through their daily life as Bruin, and with other Bruins.
WL ARTS 19 Empowerment Self-Defense and/as Conflict Resolution Janet O’Shea Practical introduction to Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD): anti-oppressive, gender-inclusive self-defense system that treats violence as tool of social control; and self-defense as social justice intervention. ESD attends to recurrent scripts for violence, and offers verbal and physical means of self-protection and conflict resolution. ESD also recognizes that empowerment requires unlearning–challenging of social norms and received wisdom; and learning of physical and verbal self-protection skills. Participants learn how to recognize common scripts for violence; and how to counter them verbally, and through physical boundary setting.

A key strength of the Bedari Kindness Institute is that its members encompass a broad range of views and scholarship on kindness and related topics. As such, the works of individual members reflect their individual viewpoints and contributions. Except as otherwise noted, their works do not constitute joint efforts or collective statements by our Institute as a whole.

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