To Excellence and Thriving: Developing Civility and Connection in Hong Kong university students

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Despite relative affluence, Hong Kong youth suffer record depression and anxiety. They confront tensions with China, against a backdrop of a global pandemic and recession, so with a sense of desperation participate in demonstrations against the Government and establishment. Positive psychology research suggests that people can “do well” by “doing good”. If students took a positive, respectful approach, would they experience better connection and well-being? This study explores this possibility. It proposes two interventions, their design and measurement: the first training Hong Kong University students in positive psychology exercises that help build civil communication and connection, and the second supporting these students to then engage with their peers to facilitate civil communication and connection. The proposed study involves a longitudinal, placebo-controlled test design, with a sample of undergraduate students (N=120) aged between 19 and 22 attending the Hong Kong University Character and Faith course, randomly assigned to test (n=60) and placebo (n=60) groups. Social referents will be identified and evenly distributed between the two groups. Civil communication and connection will be measured immediately before training, at the end of term, and the end of the school year. The application aims to significantly improve civil discourse, catalyze more positive connections, and thereby increase social capital within the HKU student community. Research indicates positive connection of a few can trigger positive contagion of many. Hong Kong youth seek a way out of their emotional siege. This study aims to ameliorate student suffering through greater civil communication and connection, creating positive ripples that might strengthen into a wave of greater well-being.


belonging, incivility, mattering, social networks, well-being


Health/Wellness, Relationships


Empirical study

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Date Posted: 22 September 2020