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The ability to accurately infer others’ mental states from facial expressions is important for optimal social functioning and is fundamentally impaired in social cognitive disorders such as autism. While pharmacologic interventions have shown promise for enhancing empathic accuracy, little is known about the effects of behavioral interventions on empathic accuracy and related brain activity. This study employed a randomized, controlled and longitudinal design to investigate the effect of a secularized analytical compassion meditation program, cognitive-based compassion training (CBCT), on empathic accuracy. Twenty-one healthy participants received functional MRI scans while completing an empathic accuracy task, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), both prior to and after completion of either CBCT or a health discussion control group. Upon completion of the study interventions, participants randomized to CBCT and were significantly more likely than control subjects to have increased scores on the RMET and increased neural activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC). Moreover, changes in dmPFC and IFG activity from baseline to the post-intervention assessment were associated with changes in empathic accuracy. These findings suggest that CBCT may hold promise as a behavioral intervention for enhancing empathic accuracy and the neurobiology supporting it.

Abstract. We explore the role of meditative practice in cultivating experiences of compassion, empathy, and altruism and address an apparent paradox: Meditation often is associated with solitary retreat, if not preoccupation with one's own concerns. How, then, does such a practice promote compassion for others? We propose a two-stage model. The first stage involves disengagement from usual preoccupation with self-reinforcing, self-defeating, or self-indulgent behaviors and reactions; the second involves a focused engagement with a universal human capacity for altruistic experience, love, and compassion. Reference is made to the limited research literature and to clinical applications of loving kindness (metta) meditation in cultivating these processes.

The present paper briefly describes and contrasts two different motivations crucially involved in decision making and cooperation, namely fairness-based and compassion-based motivation. Whereas both can lead to cooperation in comparable social situations, we suggest that they are driven by fundamentally different mechanisms and, overall, predict different behavioral outcomes. First, we provide a brief definition of each and discuss the relevant behavioral and neuroscientific literature with regards to cooperation in the context of economic games. We suggest that, whereas both fairness- and compassion-based motivation can support cooperation, fairness-based motivation leads to punishment in cases of norm violation, while compassion-based motivation can, in cases of defection, counteract a desire for revenge and buffer the decline into iterative noncooperation. However, those with compassion-based motivation alone may get exploited. Finally, we argue that the affective states underlying fairness-based and compassion-based motivation are fundamentally different, the former driven by anger or fear of being punished and the latter by a wish for the other person's well-being.
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Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, a stress-reduction program, has increasing empirical support as a patient-care intervention. Its emphasis on self-care, compassion, and healing makes it relevant as an intervention for helping nurses manage stress and reduce burnout. This article describes the implementation of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction in a hospital system as a way to lower burnout and improve well-being among nurses, using both quantitative and qualitative data.

This study examined the relation of self-compassion to positive psychological health and the five factor model of personality. Self-compassion entails being kind toward oneself in instances of pain or failure; perceiving one’s experiences as part of the larger human experience; and holding painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness. Participants were 177 undergraduates (68% female, 32% male). Using a correlational design, the study found that self-compassion had a significant positive association with self-reported measures of happiness, optimism, positive affect, wisdom, personal initiative, curiosity and exploration, agreeableness, extroversion, and conscientiousness. It also had a significant negative association with negative affect and neuroticism. Self-compassion predicted significant variance in positive psychological health beyond that attributable to personality.

This book presents Tibetan Buddhist instructions for transforming negative thoughts and feelings into loving-kindness toward all beings. Tulku Thondup instructs that by bringing to mind images and thoughts of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist deity of loving-kindness, we can connect from the heart with the Buddha's example. According to Tulku Thondup, when we awaken loving-kindness through this practice, our outlook on life fundamentally changes and we ourselves can become a source of joy and inspiration to others.

Publisher's description: The Tibetan practice of "mind training," or lojong, stretches back for hundreds of years and encompasses a variety of techniques for cultivating altruistic thoughts and coping with the inevitable challenges of everyday life. Mind Training: The Great Collection is an English adaptation of the first anthology of these techniques. Presenting 44 of the original texts — including seminal works such as "Leveling out All Preconceptions" and "Eight Verses on Training the Mind" — Mind Training combines eloquent translations and historical commentaries to demonstrate how anyone can learn to exude love, compassion, and perseverance.

The premise of this dissertation is that Buddhism must inculturate to meet the context of contemporary North America. Given the widespread interest in the application of Buddhist-derived ideas and practices in a host of secular settings, the capacity for teachers to engage with new ideas and disciplines will be crucial to the tradition's continued relevance. Because there is a high demand for and interest in Buddhist-derived programming in secular spaces, the number of individuals and organizations striving to meet this demand is mushrooming. This trend, coupled with a dearth of professional training programs and accreditation processes means that not only are there an eclectic array of approaches being used to teach meditation, but there is also minimal discourse engaging the crucial question of what constitutes effective pedagogy or adequate training processes for teachers. Chapter 1 establishes the need for the inculturation of Buddhism. This imperative for adaptation raises fundamental questions regarding how to best evaluate the authenticity of changes to traditional teaching methods. In Chapters 2 and 3, the Buddhist doctrine of skillful means is explored with an eye toward distilling guiding principles for analyzing this process of adaptation of teachings to meet a variety of cultural and personal perspectives. Drawing from Mahayana and pre-Mahayana sutras, traditions of commentary, and contemporary hermeneutics, a set of priorities based on the perspective of the Buddhist tradition is proposed. In Chapter 4, it is established that finding points of relevance to particular cultural concerns such as physical and mental health issues has been a vital component of existing efforts toward secularized meditation programs to date. This chapter concludes by drawing out of such present practices additional guiding principles to advance the process of pedagogical inculturation. Despite the widespread interest in applying meditation to a variety of settings, the pedagogy and philosophy of education behind the various approaches remains largely under-theorized. To fill this need, Chapter 5 establishes a set of guiding principles for pedagogical adaptation, drawing from the tradition's own self-understanding as well as from the insights of Western education as discussed in the prior 4 chapters. Finally, Chapter 6 offers an example of inculturated pedagogy at work.

The aim of this article is to investigate how a contemplative orientation to teaching may facilitate wholeness for teachers and students through a portrait of Diana, a kindergarten teacher working in a contemplative elementary school. The portrait, one of three portraits from a larger study, illustrates three central features of contemplative teaching: compassion, integrity, and mindful awareness. These three central features develop internally within individual teachers and are animated and influenced externally through their role as teachers. The context of their teaching, relationships with students, parents, and colleagues, and pedagogical choices, in turn influence the three central features. The emphasis on wholeness, unity, and integration of a contemplative orientation to teaching moves us toward a view of teachers and students as beings with not only minds and heads but also hearts and bodies. Contemplative teaching offers educational communities a path toward transformational, holistic, and integrative learning and teaching.

The purpose of this study was to add to the empirical literature in the growing area of psychological flexibility. Specifically, this study investigated the Buddhist practices of nonattachment, self-compassion, and meditation as they related to the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) construct of psychological flexibility among Buddhists. In addition, it was examined whether differences existed in levels of psychological flexibility among Buddhists and other religious and spiritually oriented individuals. Buddhist participants (N = 299) completed the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire - II (AAQ-II), Nonattachment Scale (NAS), Self-Compassion Scale - Short Form (SCS-SF), and a demographic questionnaire. Non-Buddhist participants (N=303) completed the AAQ-II and demographic questionnaire. Although findings indicated significant differences in degrees of psychological flexibility between Buddhists and non-Buddhists, the actual difference in mean scores was very small. Number of years of regular meditation practice, nonattachment, and self-compassion contributed to a significant degree of variance in degree of psychological flexibility among Buddhists, while the overall model was significant, accounting for ( R 2 ) 42.2% of the variance in psychological flexibility. Implications of results for clinical practice and counselor education, along with recommendations for future research are discussed.

Functional neuroimaging investigations in the fields of social neuroscience and neuroeconomics indicate that the anterior insular cortex (AI) is consistently involved in empathy, compassion, and interpersonal phenomena such as fairness and cooperation. These findings suggest that AI plays an important role in social emotions, hereby defined as affective states that arise when we interact with other people and that depend on the social context. After we link the role of AI in social emotions to interoceptive awareness and the representation of current global emotional states, we will present a model suggesting that AI is not only involved in representing current states, but also in predicting emotional states relevant to the self and others. This model also proposes that AI enables us to learn about emotional states as well as about the uncertainty attached to events, and implies that AI plays a dominant role in decision making in complex and uncertain environments. Our review further highlights that dorsal and ventro-central, as well as anterior and posterior subdivisions of AI potentially subserve different functions and guide different aspects of behavioral regulation. We conclude with a section summarizing different routes to understanding other people’s actions, feelings and thoughts, emphasizing the notion that the predominant role of AI involves understanding others’ feeling and bodily states rather than their action intentions or abstract beliefs.
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InSeeking the Heart of WisdomGoldstein and Kornfield present the central teachings and practices of insight meditation in a clear and personal language. The path of insight meditation is a journey of understanding our bodies, our minds, and our lives, of seeing clearly the true nature of experience. The authors guide the reader in developing the openness and compassion that are at the heart of this spiritual practice. For those already treading the path, as well as those just starting out, this book will be a welcome companion along the way. Among the topics covered are:    •  The hindrances to meditation—ranging from doubt and fear to painful knees—and skillful means of overcoming them    •  How compassion can arise in response to the suffering we see in our own lives and in the world    •  How to integrate a life of responsible action and service with a meditative life based on nonattachment Useful exercises are presented alongside the teachings to help readers deepen their understanding of the subjects.

Five studies investigated the cognitive and emotional processes by which self-compassionate people deal with unpleasant life events. In the various studies, participants reported on negative events in their daily lives, responded to hypothetical scenarios, reacted to interpersonal feedback, rated their or others' videotaped performances in an awkward situation, and reflected on negative personal experiences. Results from Study 1 showed that self-compassion predicted emotional and cognitive reactions to negative events in everyday life, and Study 2 found that self-compassion buffered people against negative self-feelings when imagining distressing social events. In Study 3, self-compassion moderated negative emotions after receiving ambivalent feedback, particularly for participants who were low in self-esteem. Study 4 found that low-self-compassionate people undervalued their videotaped performances relative to observers. Study 5 experimentally induced a self-compassionate perspective and found that self-compassion leads people to acknowledge their role in negative events without feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions. In general, these studies suggest that self-compassion attenuates people's reactions to negative events in ways that are distinct from and, in some cases, more beneficial than self-esteem.

How is spirituality, which refers to the emotional connection to the transcendent, related to compassion and to altruistic behavior towards strangers? Are the effects of spirituality different from those of religiosity, which refers to living according to the rules and rituals of religion? We hypothesized that, even though correlated, spirituality and religiosity would have different associations with compassion and altruistic behavior. The first two studies documented that more spiritual individuals experience greater compassion, and that this effect was specific to spirituality and could not be explained by religiosity. Because compassion has the capacity to motivate people to transcend selfish motives and act in altruistic fashion towards strangers, we reasoned that spirituality (but not religiosity) would predict altruistic behavior and that this link would be explained, in part, by compassion. Indeed, Studies 3, 4, and 5 found that more spiritual individuals behaved more altruistically in economic choice and decision-making tasks, and that the tendency of spiritual individuals to feel greater compassion mediated the relationship between spirituality and altruistic behavior. In contrast, more religious participants did not consistently feel more compassion nor behave more altruistically. Together, these findings help clarify why spirituality produces more prosocial behavior.
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A unique take on the definition of love and its place in our daily lives. Weaving together traditional stories, personal experiences, and a deep understanding of the Buddha's teachings, Thich Nhat Hanh's insights allow each of us to deepen our understanding and intimacy in any relationship and extend our compassion, even to those that cause us pain. 'Teacings on Love' is a treasure trove of guidance for couples, families, and individuals who want to nourish the gift and stregth of their relationships and deal creatively with their weaknesses and difficulties. 'Teachings on Love' provides a time-tested path to nurture the deepest love in ourselves and in others. This revised edition includes updated and newly edited chapters as well as a new introduction by the author.
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Individuals who are homozygous for the G allele of the rs53576 SNP of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene tend to be more prosocial than carriers of the A allele. However, little is known about how these differences manifest behaviorally and whether they are readily detectable by outside observers, both critical questions in theoretical accounts of prosociality. In the present study, we used thin-slicing methodology to test the hypotheses that (i) individual differences in rs53576 genotype predict how prosocial observers judge target individuals to be on the basis of brief observations of behavior, and (ii) that variation in targets’ nonverbal displays of affiliative cues would account for these judgment differences. In line with predictions, we found that individuals homozygous for the G allele were judged to be more prosocial than carriers of the A allele. These differences were completely accounted for by variations in the expression of affiliative cues. Thus, individual differences in rs53576 are associated with behavioral manifestations of prosociality, which ultimately guide the judgments others make about the individual.
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