SMU psychologist says helping Syrian refugees leads to more good will

A social psychologist at Saint Mary's University says all the good will directed at Syrian refugees could end up helping other refugees and newcomers, too.

Social psychologist Steven Smith focuses on altruism and helping newcomers to Canada

Helping Syrian refugees in Canada can, according a SMU social psychologist, only lead to helping more refugees and newcomers. (Reuters/Mark Blinch)

A social psychologist at Saint Mary's University says all the good will directed at Syrian refugees could end up helping other refugees and newcomers, too.

In Halifax, developers have offered as many as 25 unfurnished apartments for a year to help government-sponsored Syrians get settled into their lives.

Halifax Transit has also offered a year of free transit passes.

Nationally, some advocates for refugees have wondered why the federal government is only forgiving the travel loans of Syrians who've come to Canada since the Liberals took power in November.

Altruism 'is rewarding'

Steven Smith says it's possible some of these initiatives could be extended to others and set a new standard.

Smith specializes in group behaviour and decision making with a special interest in altruism. He says generosity is not something that exists in limited supply.

Steven Smith is an associate professor of psychology at Saint Mary's University in Halifax. ((CBC))

"What you see with altruism is the more you help, the more you want to help because helping others is rewarding," he said.

"What you might see is people who would not have given, give a little. People who would have given, give a bit more. And more people are giving. So what you're seeing is more altruism generally."

On Tuesday, a drop-off centre for donations closed because the volume donated so far is more than what's needed for the incoming Syrians expected in Nova Scotia.

"So the question is not about whether there's enough to go around. It's about how do you redirect?" Smith said. 

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