The arts as a catalyst for human prosociality and cooperation

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Social Psychological and Personality Science


Julie Van de Vyver and Dominic Abrams

Publication date


We tested the hypothesis that engagement in the arts may act as a catalyst that promotes prosocial cooperation. Using “Understanding Society” data (a nationally representative longitudinal sample of 30,476 people in the UK), we find that beyond major personality traits, demographic variables, wealth, education, and engagement in other social activity (sports), people’s greater engagement with the arts predicts greater prosociality (volunteering and charitable giving) over a period of 2 years. The predictive effect of prosociality on subsequent arts engagement is significantly weaker. The evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that the arts provide an important vehicle for facilitating a cohesive and sustainable society. Fostering a society in which engagement in the arts is encouraged and accessible to all may provide an important counter to economic, cultural, and political fracture and division.

Volume and page numbers

9, 664-674





Psychology, Societies, Social Capital, Sport, Arts and Social Behaviour


Open Access; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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