Tania Singer

Tania Singer
Max Planck Society | MPG · Social Neuroscience Lab

Prof. Dr.

About

253
Publications
193,186
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Introduction
The Social Neuroscience Lab investigates human social behaviour. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, we study the neuronal, hormonal, and developmental foundations of human social cognition, social and moral emotions such as empathy and compassion, envy, revenge, fairness as well as emotion regulation capacities and their role in social decision making and communication.

Publications

Publications (253)
Article
Full-text available
During the first 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic, empirical efforts in the psychological sciences have been unequivocally focused on understanding the psychosocial impact on resilience and vulnerability. While current empirical work is guided by different existing theoretical models of resilience and vulnerability, the emerging datasets have also...
Article
Full-text available
Mindfulness-based mental training interventions have become a popular means to alleviate stress and stress-associated health risks. Previous scientific investigations emphasize the importance of exploring the effects of such interventions in naturalistic settings to evaluate their implementation into daily life. Therefore, the current study examine...
Article
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The current study explores the relationship between three constructs of high relevance in the context of adversities which have, however, not yet been systematically linked on the level of psychological dispositions: psychological vulnerability, psychological resilience, and social cohesion. Based on previous theoretical and empirical frameworks, a...
Article
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The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have posed unique and severe challenges to our global society. To gain an integrative understanding of pervasive social and mental health impacts in 3522 Berlin residents aged 18 to 65, we systematically investigated the structural and temporal relationship between a variety of psychological indicators...
Article
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Based on its role in social processing and stress, oxytocin has been suggested to mediate stress reduction of socio-affective, compassion-based mental training. We tested this hypothesis in the ReSource Project, a 9-month longitudinal mental training study. Participants practiced three different types of mental training, targeting either attentiona...
Article
Recent decades have witnessed an increasing interest in effects of meditation-based interventions on the improvement of cognitive abilities, ranging from perceptual discrimination to metacognition. However, intervention studies face numerous conceptual and methodological challenges, and results are fairly inconsistent. In a large-scale 9-month ment...
Article
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Background The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has led to a mental health crisis on a global scale. Epidemiological studies have reported a drastic increase in mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, increased loneliness and feelings of disconnectedness from others, while resilience levels have been negatively affected, indicating an urgent nee...
Article
Background Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by difficulties in social communication and interaction, which have been related to atypical neural processing of rewards, especially in the social domain. Since intranasal oxytocin has been shown to modulate activation of the brain’s reward circuit, oxytocin might ameliorate the processing...
Article
Based on its role in social processing and stress, oxytocin was suggested to mediate stress reduction after compassion-based mental training. In the ReSource Project, a 9-month longitudinal mental training study, we first examined oxytocin's role in psychosocial stress reduction after training socio-affective (i.e., compassion-based, Affect Module)...
Article
Scientific investigations of the effects of meditation-based mental training are increasingly relying on studies in naturalistic settings. Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) approaches are well-suited to explore training-induced mental states (i.e., affect, thought content, stress experience), and the degree to which training effects carry over...
Article
Chronic stress exposure reduces expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in animal and disease models. The stress-hormone cortisol has an antagonistic relationship with BDNF and may be implicated in this process. Previous work including our own suggests that contemplative mental training interventions like mindfulness-based stress red...
Article
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Childhood is marked by profound changes in prosocial behaviour. The underlying motivational mechanisms remain poorly understood. We investigated the development of altruistically motivated helping in middle childhood and the neurocognitive and -affective mechanisms driving this development. 127 6–12 year-old children performed a novel gustatory cos...
Article
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Objective: To investigate the effect of regular contemplative mental training on endocrine and psychological indices of long-term stress. Methods: An open-label efficacy trial that comprised three distinct 3-month modules targeting attention and interoception, socio-affective or socio-cognitive abilities through dyadic exercises and secularised...
Article
Full-text available
Meditation-based mental training interventions show physical and mental health benefits. However, it remains unclear how different types of mental practice affect emotion processing at both the neuronal and the behavioural level. In the context of the ReSource project, 332 participants underwent an fMRI scan while performing an emotion anticipation...
Article
Full-text available
Cooperative decisions are well predicted by stable individual differences in social values but it remains unclear how they may be modulated by emotions such as fear and anger. Moving beyond specific decision paradigms, we used a suite of economic games and investigated how experimental inductions of fear or anger affect latent factors of decision m...
Article
Full-text available
The hippocampus is a highly plastic brain structure supporting functions central to human cognition. Morphological changes in the hippocampus have been implicated in development, aging, as well as in a broad range of neurological and psychiatric disorders. A growing body of research suggests that hippocampal plasticity is closely linked to the acti...
Preprint
Full-text available
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by difficulties in social communication and interaction, which have been related to atypical neural processing of rewards, especially in the social domain. Since intranasal oxytocin has been shown to modulate activation of the brain's reward circuit, oxytocin could be a useful tool to ameliorate the p...
Article
Full-text available
Research from psychology, neurobiology and behavioral economics indicates that a binary view of motivation, based on approach and avoidance, may be too reductive. Instead, a literature review suggests that at least seven distinct motives are likely to affect human decisions: “consumption/resource seeking,” “care,” “affiliation,” “achievement,” “sta...
Book
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on Berliners, encompassing their daily lives, mental health and psychological resilience, their feelings of belonging, trust and their social interactions. The CovSocial project aims to shed light on these crucial pandemic-related changes to the mental health and resilience of individuals as well a...
Preprint
Full-text available
Objective This study had the objective to investigate the effect of regular contemplative mental training on endocrine indices of long-term stress. Methods An open-label efficacy trial comprising three distinct 3-month modules targeting attention and interoception, socio-affective or socio-cognitive abilities through dyadic exercises and secularis...
Preprint
Full-text available
A bstract Despite the importance of our ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, the social brain remains incompletely understood. Here, we studied the plasticity of social brain function in healthy adults following the targeted training of attention-mindfulness, socio-affective, and socio-cognitive skills for 9 months. All partic...
Preprint
Meditation-based mental training interventions show great benefits for physical and mental health. However, it remains unclear how different types of mental practice differentially affect emotion processing at both the neuronal and the behavioural level. In the context of the ReSource project, 332 participants underwent an fMRI scan while performin...
Preprint
Meditation-based mental training interventions show great benefits for physical and mental health. However, it remains unclear how different types of mental practice differentially affect emotion processing at both the neuronal and the behavioural level. In the context of the ReSource project, 332 participants underwent an fMRI scan while performin...
Article
Full-text available
Human social interaction crucially relies on the ability to infer what other people think. Referred to as Theory of Mind (ToM), this ability has long been argued to emerge around 4 y of age when children start passing traditional verbal ToM tasks. This developmental dogma has recently been questioned by nonverbal ToM tasks passed by infants younger...
Article
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In contrast to conventional functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis across participants, item analysis allows generalizing the observed neural response patterns from a specific stimulus set to the entire population of stimuli. In the present study, we perform an item analysis on an fMRI paradigm (EmpaToM) that measures the neural corr...
Article
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Growing evidence suggests that chronic low-grade inflammation can be reduced through mindfulness-based mental training interventions. However, these results are inconsistent and based on patient populations with heterogeneous conditions. Similar research in healthy adults is lacking. Moreover, common intervention protocols involve varying combinati...
Article
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Importance Telomere length is associated with the development of age-related diseases and structural differences in multiple brain regions. It remains unclear, however, whether change in telomere length is linked to brain structure change, and to what extent telomere length can be influenced through mental training. Objectives To assess the dynami...
Article
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Mindfulness-and, more generally, meditation-based interventions increasingly gain popularity, effectively promoting cognitive, affective, and social capacities. It is unclear, however, if different types of practice have the same or specific effects on mental functioning. Here we tested three consecutive three-month training modules aimed at cultiv...
Preprint
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Playing action video games (AVG) has been associated with benefits in cognition. Nevertheless, AVG are often violent and concerns exist regarding the affective and social profile of frequent action video game players (AVGPs). This cross-sectional study contrasted individuals who frequently or seldom play AVG on laboratory measures of aggressive and...
Article
The human body is highly susceptible to stress. It reacts to ongoing psychosocial challenge as it would to acute threats to our physical integrity: with the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Contemplative mental training interventions, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, have bec...
Article
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Regulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, indexed through high frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV), is indicative of physical and psychological health. However, little is known about the trainability of this capacity. We investigated the effects of a 9-month mental training program (the ReSource Project; n = 298) on voluntary HF-HRV u...
Article
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is an essential facilitator of neuronal plasticity. By counteracting the adverse effects of excessive stress-induced glucocorticoid signaling, BDNF has been implicated as a resilience factor to psychopathology caused by chronic stress. Insights into the effects of acute stress on peripheral BDNF levels in hu...
Article
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The emotional matching paradigm, introduced by Hariri and colleagues in 2000, is a widely used neuroimaging experiment that reliably activates the amygdala. In the classic version of the experiment faces with negative emotional expression and scenes depicting distressing events are compared with geometric shapes instead of neutral stimuli of the sa...
Article
Full-text available
The emotional matching paradigm, introduced by Hariri and colleagues in 2000, is a widely used neuroimaging experiment that reliably activates the amygdala. In the classic version of the experiment faces with negative emotional expression and scenes depicting distressing events are compared with geometric shapes instead of neutral stimuli of the sa...
Article
Mindfulness interventions have gained much attraction, also due to their promise to improve health and wellbeing. However, not enough attention is devoted to the differentiation between various mental practice types. Here, we summarize findings from the ReSource Project, a 9-month longitudinal mental training study comparing practices focusing on (...
Preprint
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Emotions are frequently thought of as reactions to events in the world. However, many of our emotional experiences are of our own making, coming from thoughts and memories. These different origins mean that these endogenous emotions are more controllable than exogenous emotions, making plausible a role of endogenous emotion in self-regulation and m...
Article
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Daily life stress is an omnipresent phenomenon in modern society. Research has linked prolonged activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to psychiatric and somatic diseases. Everyday stressors substantially contribute to these health risks. Despite the notion that the physiological stress response is highly dependent on concurrent psyc...
Article
Major-depressive-disorder (MDD) and alexithymia have both been associated with empathy deficits. We examined whether depression and alexithymia show dissociable or interacting effects on cognitive and emotional trait and state empathy. Healthy controls with high and low alexithymia and MDD-patients with high and low alexithymia were assessed. We us...
Poster
The length of telomeres, protective nucleotide sequences located at the tips of chromosomes, is a reliable marker of biological aging. Repeated cell divisions over the lifespan wear down telomeres, and shorter telomeres are linked to increased disease and mortality. Recent research has highlighted beneficial effects of contemplative practices on te...
Article
Full-text available
Global challenges such as climate change or the refugee crises emphasize the necessity of altruism and cooperation. In a large-scale 9-month intervention study, we investigated the malleability of prosociality by three distinct mental trainings cultivating attention, socio-affective, or socio-cognitive skills. We assessed numerous established measu...
Article
Full-text available
A variety of contemplative practices putatively improves the ability to deal with difficult emotions. However, it is unclear how these different types of mental training differentially affect the use of different emotion regulation strategies. We addressed this question in a 9-month longitudinal study in which participants (N = 332) took part in th...
Article
To gain a comprehensive understanding of the multidimensional complex systems structure of the stress response and related health outcomes, we utilized network analysis in a sample of 328 healthy participants in two steps. In a first step, we focused on associations between measures of basal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functioning and subje...
Article
Despite increasing interest in effects of meditation, systematic in-depth research on how it qualitatively feels to engage in different kinds of contemplative practices is still missing. To fill this gap, we explore the validity of Micro-phenomenological Interviews (MpI) to assess experiences during breathing meditation (BM), observing-thought medi...
Preprint
Full-text available
Research from psychology, neurobiology and behavioral economics indicates that a binary view of motivation, based on approach and avoidance, may be too reductive and that at least seven crucial motives are likely to affect human decisions, such as "consumption/resource seeking", "care", "affiliation", "achievement", "status-power", "threat approach...
Article
Full-text available
In the version of this Article originally published, in Fig. 2c the hatching indicating antisocial behaviour was on the wrong data bars. This has now been corrected in the Article.
Article
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Introduction: Self-referential processing is a key component of the emotional self-concept. Previous studies have shown that emotional self-referential processing is related to structure and function of cortical midline areas such as medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and that it can be altered on a behavioral level by specific mental training practi...
Article
Full-text available
Empathy, compassion and Theory of Mind (ToM) are central topics in social psychology and neuroscience. While empathy enables the sharing of others’ emotions and may result in empathic distress, a maladaptive form of empathic resonance, or compassion, a feeling of warmth and concern for others, ToM provides cognitive understanding of someone else's...
Article
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Training the capacity to self-generate emotions can be a potent "vaccine" against negative stressors and be an effective intervention for affective psychopathology. However, due to a lack of knowledge about sources of individual differences in generation abilities, it is unclear how to optimally design such interventions. We investigated one potent...
Article
In laboratory environments individuals may display empathic cortisol stress responses merely from observing another experience psychosocial stress. Moreover, within couples, women synchronize their own to their partners' cortisol release. We investigated whether a woman's tendency to experience such cortisol stress resonance in a controlled laborat...
Article
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Full-text access here: http://rdcu.be/Cou0. When misfortune befalls another, humans may feel distress, leading to a motivation to escape. When such misfortune is perceived as justified, however, it may be experienced as rewarding and lead to motivation to witness the misfortune. We explored when in human ontogeny such a motivation emerges and wheth...
Article
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Research on the effects of mindfulness- and compassion-based interventions is flourishing along with self-report scales to assess facets of these broad concepts. However, debates remain as to which mental practices are most appropriate to develop the attentional, cognitive, and socio-affective facets of mindfulness and compassion. One crucial quest...
Article
Full-text available
Standard economic theory postulates that decisions are driven by stable context-insensitive preferences, while motivation psychology suggests they are driven by distinct context-sensitive motives with distinct evolutionary goals and characteristic psycho-physiological and behavioral patterns. To link these fields and test how distinct motives could...
Preprint
Psychosocial stress is a public health burden in modern societies. Chronic stress–induced disease processes are,in large part, mediated via the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary system. We asked whether the contemplative mental training of different practice types targetingattentional,...