Can kindness be contagious?

CHICAGO TRIBUNEOctober 20, 2013 

According to the new documentary “Good Virus,” if you do something nice — or even see someone do something nice — you’re more likely to spread those good vibes to others.

“My wife said that all my projects were getting very dark and cynical and I said, ‘Great — then I might just do a movie all about being nice,’” said filmmaker David Gaz, director of “Good Virus.”

Gaz said he first became curious about the power of kindness after reading an article about James Fowler, associate professor at the University of California, San Diego and co-author of the book, “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives” (Back Bay Books).

“... in Fowler’s research, he showed that if I do something nice for you, you will do something nice for four other people, on average,” Gaz said.

Gaz conducted several interviews for his documentary, including one with Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Keltner looks at the roots of evolution and why we are nice to people when it seems we have no advantage to be nice to people,” Gaz said. “He found it was sort of rooted in evolution. Human babies take a long time to mature compared to animals. When they are first born they’re pretty darn helpless. He says the reason we are nice to people is we have to form these cooperative groups in order to raise our kids and to pass our genes on to future generations.”

Gaz is hoping to gather enough buzz for a wide-scale theater release, but for now, people can see a 20-minute preview online at www.goodvirus.org.

Gaz said that “every aspect of my life now revolves around kindness.”

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