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Arts Linked to Altruistic Behavior.

Update Date: Aug 17, 2012 12:25 PM EDT

Public school arts and performing arts programs such as, art, theater and music, are always the first to go when school administrators make or are forced to concede to budget cuts: and now here is one more reason why this is a huge mistake.

Exposure to the arts can apparently give someone an altruistic streak. Researchers at the University of Chicago Illinois have concluded that people with an active interest in the arts contribute more to society than those with little to no such interest. 

 After analyzing attendance to theaters, operas and museums, and people who make or perform art, researchers found that, particularly in the former group, that subjects had much more giving personalities. 

"Even after controlling for age, race and education, we found that participation in the arts, especially as audience, predicted civic engagement, tolerance and altruism," said Kelly LeRoux, assistant professor of public administration at UIC and principal investigator on the study.

According to the report released by University researchers, subjects were given a survey and asked questions about hypothetical situations. Altruistic behavior was measured by whether respondents said they had allowed a stranger to go ahead of them in line, carried a stranger's belongings, donated blood, given directions to a stranger, lent someone an item of value, returned money to a cashier who had given too much change, or looked after a neighbor's pets, plants or mail.

Experts also found that the same individuals were generally more socially tolerant.

Leroux proposes that if political leaders were truly concerned about the decline of community life or cared to restore a neighborhood, the arts should not be disregarded. "If policymakers are concerned about a decline in community life, the arts shouldn't be disregarded as a means to promote an active citizenry," LeRoux said. "Our positive findings could strengthen the case for government support for the arts."

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