Fall 2020 Contest Details:

The Art & Science of Kindness During COVID-19:

Fall 2020 Contest Details:

COVID-19 has shaken things up and brought many unforeseen challenges in 2020. Now more than ever, it is imperative to address kindness as a key potentiator of brain health. We are hosting an art contest bringing the neuroscience of kindness and the conceptual framework of art synectics together to create an outlet for students to share their experiences during COVID-19.

In this contest, students created a single frame narrative artwork using the Neuro-Kindness Synectics Compass. The compass provides a fun, interactive way for students to choose a Neuroscience of Kindness Research concept and 3 Synectics creativity prompts as a starting point for their artwork. In addition, the students select one word to describe an aspect of their COVID experience. This artistic process supports self-reflection of students’ COVID experience using a creative lens focused on learning about the neuroscience of kindness, interpersonal connection, and wellbeing.

Neuroscience of Kindness Research:

Mirror Neurons

Mirror neurons are brain cells that enable humans to mirror the emotions and actions of others – creating a neural basis for empathy. Empathy is a fundamental building block for all social connections and relationships.


Cultivating strong social connections buffer against the negative effects of stress, boost your immune system and decrease depression and anxiety. Similarly, in the brain, there are benefits to having strong connections between neurons. The more you practice kindness, the stronger those neural connections become – training your brain to be kinder, healthier, and happier.

​Individual differences in resting-state connectivity and giving social support

Kindness Training

Kindness is like a muscle – you can strengthen it with practice and training. In fact, there is no limit! When you push yourself to think flexibly, generate multiple solutions, and view people and their contexts from broader perspectives, you sharpen the cognitive skills that continuously refuel your ability to practice empathy and compassion. In fact, the more you give = the more you have to bestow.

Differential pattern of functional brain plasticity and compassion and empathy training

Parasympathetic Nervous System

Practicing compassion and kindness increases parasympathetic activity – a calm, relaxed brain state associated with better health outcomes. Additionally, compassion dampens sympathetic activity (“fight or flight”) reducing the experience of stress or fear.

Neurophysiological and behavioral markers of compassion

Reward System

Dopamine. Dopamine. Dopamine. When you are kind, you activate your brain’s positive ‘neuropharmacy’, the reward system (the nucleus accumbens to be exact), which produces the same positive feelings in your brain as when you enjoy your favorite dessert. Your brain learns kind behavior is rewarding – motivating you to do it again.

Kindness is contagious: exploring engagement in a gamified persuasive intervention for wellbeing

Synectics Framework

Interactive Neuro-Kindness Synectics Compass:

Live-code version of Synectics Compass on Codepen.io

Synectics Framework

Synectics is a problem solving framework developed by George M. Prince and William J.J. Gordon. The name Synectics comes from the Greek and means “the joining together of different and apparently irrelevant elements.”

Synectics is a problem solving methodology that stimulates thought processes of which the subject may be unaware. Synectics is a way to approach creativity and problem-solving in a rational way. Wikipedia

One important element in creativity is embracing the seemingly irrelevant. Emotion is emphasized over intellect and the irrational over the rational.

emphasizes the importance of “‘metaphorical process‘ to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar“.

Trust things that are alien, and alienate things that are trusted.” This encourages… fundamental problem-analysis and…the alienation of the original problem through the creation of analogies.


Link To Complete List of Synectics Triggers:

Single Frame Narrative

Review each of these articles in detail. This will take you about an hour and a half, if you focus. Give yourself the time to look at each image and watch the Hancock video. What do each of these works/artists share in common?‌