A day of compassion

Option 2 – Day of Compassion
Step 1: Participate in the Day of Compassion
On a day of your choosing in November, you will observe our Social Psychology “Day of Compassion.” Your
challenge will be to try your absolute best to live each minute of that day as compassionately as possible. In other
words, for a full 24-hour period you should do your best to reduce suffering of others, help those in need, be
considerate and respectful, and avoid causing harm to any living being.
When doing this assignment, leave no behavior unexamined — from watching TV to eating lunch to decisions
about giving time or money to others. Don’t limit yourself to simply holding the door open for a stranger or
petting a lonely dog; think about all the unnecessary suffering in the world, and strive for the greatest impact
and deepest level of compassion without being phony or insincere.
It is up to you to define what compassion is and to decide how best to realize it. If you are already quite
compassionate, try being compassionate toward groups you don’t often focus on. Even if your actions don’t differ
much from how you normally behave, carefully observe and analyze what transpires during the day.
To minimize any bias in social reactions, it is best if you do not tell others about the class assignment until after the
Day of Nonconformity is over. Also, under no circumstances should you behave in a way that harms yourself in
service of others. Show compassion to yourself as well.
Step 2: Write About Your Experience
By the end of the day on Monday 11/23, you will need to turn in a social psychological analysis of what the day
was like (limited to three typewritten double-spaced pages using 12-point font and 1″ margins). Here are some
sample questions you might address:
● How did you define compassion, and what did you focus your efforts on?
● If your behavior was different than normal, which person did you like more: the “Day of Compassion you”
or the “normal you”? If you preferred the “Day of Compassion you,” what are the psychological factors that
prevent this “you” from coming out?
● Discuss how gender norms possibly affected your experience. Did you find that you violated or
accentuated any gender norms while participating in the Day of Compassion?
● What are the psychological costs and benefits of living compassionately? In your view, do the benefits
outweigh the costs?
● How did others respond to your compassion? Do you think they noticed a difference in your behavior?
What attributions did people make for your behavior, and why?
● If you wanted to encourage others to behave as you did during the Day of Compassion, what psychological
techniques would you use?
● If you were to predict your behavior one month from now, do you think it will be changed in any way as a
result of participating in the Day of Compassion? If so, how? If not, why not?
In carrying out this assignment, try to go beyond superficial descriptive accounts and see if you can arrive at social
psychological insights about yourself or others.
Adapted from an assignment created by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

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