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In a recent TICS opinion article [ 1 ], Dahl et al. discuss the psychological mechanisms involved in different types of meditation practice. While we applaud and to a large extent agree with their systematization, we disagree with their suggestion that cognitive reappraisal and perspective taking are core processes of all constructive practices. Rather, we suggest that for an important subset of such practices, loving-kindness and compassion meditation, both behavioral and neural evidence points to the importance of self-generation of motivational and emotional states over the regulatory processes implicated by Dahl et al.
Can the hyperambitious, bottom-line-driven practices of the global economy incorporate compassion into the pursuit of wealth? Or is economics driven solely by materialism and self-interest? In Caring Economics, experts consider these questions alongside the Dalai Lama in a wide-ranging, scientific-based discussion on economics and altruism.Begun in 1987, the Mind and Life Institute arose out of a series of conferences held with the Dalai Lama and a range of scientists that sought to form a connection between the empiricism of contemporary scientific inquiry and the contemplative, compassion-based practices of Buddhism. Caring Economics is based on a conference held by the Mind and Life Institute in Zurich in which experts from all over the world gathered to discuss the possibility of having a global economy focused on compassion and altruism. Each chapter consists of a presentation by an expert in the field, followed by a discussion with the Dalai Lama in which he offers his response and his own unique insights on the subject. In this provocative and inspiring book, learn how wealth doesn't need to be selfish, how in fact, empathy and compassion may be the path to a healthier world economy.
Tania Singer of the Max Planck Institute has spearheaded a fantastic new resource for compassion enthusiasts. Compassion researchers and trainers have comp together and produced a free e-book compiling great information on compassion science and education. Some of our CCARE instructors and affiliated scientists have written chapters.
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.
As humans we are a highly social species: in order to coordinate our joint actions and assure successful communication, we use language skills to explicitly convey information to each other, and social abilities such as empathy or perspective taking to infer another person’s emotions and mental state. The human cognitive capacity to draw inferences about other peoples’ beliefs, intentions and thoughts has been termed mentalizing, theory of mind or cognitive perspective taking. This capacity makes it possible, for instance, to understand that people may have views that differ from our own. Conversely, the capacity to share the feelings of others is called empathy. Empathy makes it possible to resonate with others’ positive and negative feelings alike — we can thus feel happy when we vicariously share the joy of others and we can share the experience of suffering when we empathize with someone in pain. Importantly, in empathy one feels with someone, but one does not confuse oneself with the other; that is, one still knows that the emotion one resonates with is the emotion of another. If this self–other distinction is not present, we speak of emotion contagion, a precursor of empathy that is already present in babies.
Animals, in particular humans, frequently punish other individuals who behave negatively or uncooperatively towards them. In animals, this usually serves to protect the personal interests of the individual concerned, and its kin. However, humans also punish altruistically, in which the act of punishing is personally costly. The propensity to do so has been proposed to reflect the cultural acquisition of norms of behaviour, which incorporates the desire to uphold equity and fairness, and promotes cooperation. Here, we review the proximate neurobiological basis of punishment, considering the motivational processes that underlie punishing actions.
The phenomenon of empathy entails the ability to share the affective experiences of others. In recent years social neuroscience made considerable progress in revealing the mechanisms that enable a person to feel what another is feeling. The present review provides an in-depth and critical discussion of these findings. Consistent evidence shows that sharing the emotions of others is associated with activation in neural structures that are also active during the first-hand experience of that emotion. Part of the neural activation shared between self- and other-related experiences seems to be rather automatically activated. However, recent studies also show that empathy is a highly flexible phenomenon, and that vicarious responses are malleable with respect to a number of factors—such as contextual appraisal, the interpersonal relationship between empathizer and other, or the perspective adopted during observation of the other. Future investigations are needed to provide more detailed insights into these factors and their neural underpinnings. Questions such as whether individual differences in empathy can be explained by stable personality traits, whether we can train ourselves to be more empathic, and how empathy relates to prosocial behavior are of utmost relevance for both science and society.