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Mindfulness Training (even a small amount) cultivates compassion

4 Mar 2015 3:42 PM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

This just in from the American Mindfulness Research Association which offers a monthly summary of recent mindfulness research:

Can mindfulness training increase real-life
compassionate behavior? To address this question,
Lem et.al.[PLOS One] randomly assigned 69
college undergraduates to either a mindfulness
meditation (MM) or cognitive skills (CS) program.
Both programs were delivered over self-guided web-
based smartphone apps. A total of 56 participants
completed the three week long interventions. The
MM participants engaged in 14 mindfulness
meditation sessions lasting an average of 12 minutes
each. The sessions did not include loving-kindness
or compassion content. The CS participants engaged
in 14 game-playing sessions designed to enhance
memory, attention, speed, and problem solving.

After completing the intervention, participants were
asked to visit a waiting area that contained three
chairs, two of which were already occupied by
alleged “participants,” who were actually researcher
confederates (actors who played participants), and
the third of which was to be occupied by the
participant. As they sat waiting, another confederate
entered with crutches and a walking boot, acting as
if in pain. The seated confederates showed
indifference to the newcomer. Researchers then
observed whether or not the participants yielded
their seats to the newcomer.

MM participants were more than twice as likely to
yield their chairs than were CS participants (37 vs.
14 ). This increase in compassionate behavior was
not accompanied by an increased ability to judge
other’s emotions; MM and CS participants did not
differ on that variable.

The results support the ability of mindfulness
training to help a person to act compassionately to
others. Smartphone apps can potentially extend the
benefits of mindfulness training to those who would
otherwise lack access to and the time for more
immersive programs. Future research can
determine whether more immersive programs
might result in larger benefits and help clarify the
underlying mechanisms for enhancement of
compassion through mindfulness training.

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