There is research that indicates that people are often motivated to be kind! The Ohio State News journalist Laura Arenschield reported on the work of professor David Melamed and colleagues.
The study was based off the assumption that there were four motivators of kindness:
A person wants to do something kind for someone who already did something nice for them.
A person saw another be generous and it caused them to want to be nice to that person who showed generosity.
A person is likely to show kindness around people who are part of their network and would thus be likely to reward their generosity.
A person would "pay it forward" if someone did something kind for them.
In a nutshell, the research showed that these four motivators don't cancel each other out when there is more than one in a given situation.
To be fair, I haven't had the chance to take a direct look at the published study, but I would be curious about the validity of its assumptions. While these assumptions are very likely backed by research, they encompass the idea that we generate kindness based on how other people treat us: We pass along this kindness behavior when other people show us kindness, and even when we feel like there may be a reward.
I wonder about the motivators for acts of kindness that are inspired by a spiritual or philosophical impetus, where we give of ourselves for the sake of giving. Maybe we had to learn kindness in the first place - but many would argue that some are born with it. What do you think? Please feel free to link to other articles or research about kindness!