People kinder after 9/11

September 5, 2003

On the eve of the second anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy, research has confirmed the cliche that the world is a changed place. It shows that people's personalities have changed markedly since September 11.

Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, from the universities of Michigan and Pennsylvania, set up an online experiment about positive emotion. Web surfers were asked to rate themselves on 24 positive psychological traits including bravery, gratitude, kindness, spirituality, hope and industry.

The questionnaire was put on the web in spring 2001, so the researchers were able to compare the responses before and after September 11.

More than 900 people completed the survey before September 11 and more than 3,000 after, most of whom were from the US.

It found that people who responded after September 11 regarded themselves as significantly more grateful, hopeful, kind, loving and spiritual than those who responded before September 11.

The respondents also declared a greater sense of leadership and emphasised the importance of teamwork.

The academics suggest that these traits are similar to St Paul's virtues of "faith, hope and charity". They note that the secular traits in their survey showed little significant increase.

The authors conclude in an article in Psychological Science that these findings provide food for thought. "Our data direct the attention of positive psychology to the role of crisis as a possible crucible for what is best about people," they write.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns