Social mindfulness and prosociality vary across the globe

Niels J. van Doesum*, Ryan O. Murphy, Marcello Gallucci, Efrat Aharonov-Majar, Ursula Athenstaedt, Wing Tung Au, Liying Bai, Robert Böhm, Inna Bovina, Nancy R. Buchan, Xiao Ping Chen, Kitty B. Dumont, Jan B. Engelmann, Kimmo Eriksson, Hyun Euh, Susann Fiedler, Justin Friesen, Simon Gächter, Camilo Garcia, Roberto GonzálezSylvie Graf, Katarzyna Growiec, Serge Guimond, Martina Hrebíčková, Elizabeth Immer-Bernold, Jeff Joireman, Gokhan Karagonlar, Kerry Kawakami, Toko Kiyonari, Yu Kou, D. Michael Kuhlman, Alexandros Andreas Kyrtsis, Siugmin Lay, Geoffrey J. Leonardelli, Norman P. Li, Yang Li, Boris Maciejovsky, Zoi Manesi, Ali Mashuri, Aurelia Mok, Karin S. Moser, Ladislav Moták, Adrian Netedu, Chandrasekhar Pammi, Michael J. Platow, Karolina Raczka-Winkler, Christopher P. Reinders Folmer, Cecilia Reyna, Angelo Romano, Shaul Shalvi, Cláudia Simão, Adam W. Stivers, Pontus Strimling, Yannis Tsirbas, Sonja Utz, Leander van der Meij, Sven Waldzus, Yiwen Wang, Bernd Weber, Ori Weisel, Tim Wildschut, Fabian Winter, Junhui Wu, Jose C. Yong, Paul A.M. van Lange

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Humans are social animals, but not everyone will be mindful of others to the same extent. Individual differences have been found, but would social mindfulness also be shaped by one's location in the world? Expecting cross-national differences to exist, we examined if and how social mindfulness differs across countries. At little to no material cost, social mindfulness typically entails small acts of attention or kindness. Even though fairly common, such low-cost cooperation has received little empirical attention. Measuring social mindfulness across 31 samples from industrialized countries and regions (n = 8,354), we found considerable variation. Among selected country-level variables, greater social mindfulness was most strongly associated with countries' better general performance on environmental protection. Together, our findings contribute to the literature on prosociality by targeting the kind of everyday cooperation that is more focused on communicating benevolence than on providing material benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023846118
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number35
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. C.P. passed away during the time we were working on the manuscript; we are grateful for his valuable contributions to this research. We thank Daniel Balliet for his helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Research was supported in part by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) under Grant No. 022.003.040, awarded to P.A.M.-V.L. The contributions of M.H. and S. Graf were supported by Grant No. 20-01214S from the Czech Science Foundation and by Rozvoj Výzkumné Organ-izace (Development of a Research Organization): RVO 68081740 of the Institute of Psychology, Czech Academy of Sciences. The contribution of R.G. was supported by the Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (ANID/ FONDAL 15130009) and the Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Research (ANID/FONDAP 15110006). The contribution of G.J.L. was supported by Standard Research Grant No. 410-2010-1221 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The contributions of S. Gächter and O.W. were supported by the European Research Council Grant No. ERC-AdG 295707 COOPERATION.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.


  • Cross-national differences
  • Low-cost cooperation
  • Social mindfulness


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