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Loving-Kindness Meditation Increases Social Connectedness

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Abstract

The need for social connection is a fundamental human motive, and it is increasingly clear that feeling socially connected confers mental and physical health benefits. However, in many cultures, societal changes are leading to growing social distrust and alienation. Can feelings of social connection and positivity toward others be increased? Is it possible to self-generate these feelings? In this study, the authors used a brief loving-kindness meditation exercise to examine whether social connection could be created toward strangers in a controlled laboratory context. Compared with a closely matched control task, even just a few minutes of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and positivity toward novel individuals on both explicit and implicit levels. These results suggest that this easily implemented technique may help to increase positive social emotions and decrease social isolation.
Loving-Kindness Meditation Increases Social Connectedness
Cendri A. Hutcherson, Emma M. Seppala, and James J. Gross
Stanford University
The need for social connection is a fundamental human motive, and it is increasingly clear that feeling
socially connected confers mental and physical health benefits. However, in many cultures, societal
changes are leading to growing social distrust and alienation. Can feelings of social connection and
positivity toward others be increased? Is it possible to self-generate these feelings? In this study, the
authors used a brief loving-kindness meditation exercise to examine whether social connection could be
created toward strangers in a controlled laboratory context. Compared with a closely matched control
task, even just a few minutes of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and
positivity toward novel individuals on both explicit and implicit levels. These results suggest that this
easily implemented technique may help to increase positive social emotions and decrease social isolation.
Keywords: meditation, compassion, prosocial emotion, emotion regulation, implicit affect
As a species whose survival depends on the ability to build
mutually beneficial relationships with others (Brewer, 2004), hu-
man beings have a deep-seated need to feel connected, to be
trusted and loved, and to trust and love in return (Baumeister &
Leary, 1995). Feeling connected to others increases psychological
and physical well-being (Brown, Nesse, Vinokur, & Smith, 2003;
De Vries, Glasper, & Detillion, 2003; Lee & Robbins, 1998) and
decreases the risk of depression and physical ailments (Hawkley,
Masi, Berry, & Cacioppo, 2006). A sense of connectedness also
increases empathetic responding (Cialdini, Brown, Lewis, Luce, &
Neuberg, 1997) as well as acts of trust and cooperation (Glaeser,
Laibson, Scheinkman, & Soutter, 2000), which tend to have mu-
tually reinforcing effects: they beget trust and cooperation in return
(Fehr & Rochenbach, 2003).
Unfortunately, despite the clear benefits that feelings of social
connectedness confer, our society is becoming increasingly iso-
lated and distrustful: technological, economic, and social changes
have resulted in smaller social networks (McPherson, Smith-
Lovin, & Brashears, 2006), as well as an erosion of basic confi-
dence in the trustworthiness of others (Rahn & Transue, 1998).
These observations imply a worrisome predicament: increases in
social isolation and mistrust of those outside one’s already estab-
lished social networks may prevent the very signals of cooperation
and liking necessary to evoke social connectedness and trusting
behavior, leading to a downward spiral in social connectedness and
support that is difficult to counteract.
This dilemma is compounded by the apparent difficulty of
changing these patterns of affective response. Indeed, research has
highlighted the rapid, inflexible nature of automatic habits of
response toward others (Bargh, 1999). These automatic, implicit
responses appear resistant to change even in the face of new or
contradictory evidence (Gregg, Seibt, & Banaji, 2006), and their
effects on behavior can often be difficult to consciously detect or
control (Wilson, Lindsey, & Schooler, 2000).
How can we increase feelings of connection at an automatic
level, most crucially toward those individuals not yet within our
circle of trust? A growing psychological literature has focused on
decreasing antisocial behaviors or implicit prejudice. These inter-
ventions typically involve efforts to raise awareness about the
negative consequences of such prejudice (e.g., Rudman, Ashmore,
& Gary, 2001), or exposure to individuals from the disliked,
stereotyped group toward whom one holds a positive attitude
(Dasgupta & Greenwald, 2001). However, Western science has
only recently begun to recognize the benefit not just of counter-
acting negative, antisocial emotion, but also of fostering positive
prosocial emotions and behaviors. Even when highlighting the
important role of positivity in counteracting implicit negativity,
most studies leave unanswered the question of how to generate
such positivity in the first place.
Promoting a prosocial orientation has long been at the core of
some Eastern philosophies, however. In particular, Buddhist tra-
ditions have emphasized the importance of cultivating connection
and love toward others through techniques such as loving-kindness
meditation (LKM). This practice, in which one directs compassion
and wishes for well-being toward real or imagined others, is
designed to create changes in emotion, motivation, and behavior in
order to promote positive feelings and kindness toward the self and
others (Salzberg, 1995).
Unfortunately, little empirical research has been done on LKM
(Wallace, 2006), and the nature and extent of its effects remains
largely unknown. Can a simple meditative practice really create
positive feelings even toward strangers, on an implicit as well as
explicit level? If so, how far-reaching are these effects? Do they
extend only to specific targets of meditation, or can they generalize
more broadly?
In the present study, we investigated the efficacy of a short,
guided loving-kindness visualization to increase positivity and
Cendri A. Hutcherson, Emma M. Seppala, and James J. Gross, Depart-
ment of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, California.
This research was funded by a grant from the Mind and Life Institute.
We are also grateful to Maryliz McCurdy, Rika Onizuka, and Sandra Roth
for assistance in data collection.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to James J.
Gross, Department of Psychology, Jordan Hall, Bldg. 420, Stanford, CA
94305-2130. E-mail: gross@ stanford.edu
Emotion Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association
2008, Vol. 8, No. 5, 720–724 1528-3542/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0013237
720
social connectedness toward others. We assessed several different
predicted effects of LKM, including changes in mood, explicit
evaluations of the self and others, and, most critically, implicit
evaluations of the self and others. We also determined the extent
to which changes in mood were related to changes in evaluation of
self and others.
Method
Participants
A total of 93 participants (57% female; mean age 23.6 years,
range 18 40; 46% Caucasian, 27% Southeast Asian, 14%
Asian or Asian American, 5% Latino/Hispanic, 3% Black, 5%
other) volunteered for this study. Because extensive experience in
meditation has been shown to alter neural structure, and may affect
baseline responding (Lazar et al., 2005), participants were ex-
cluded if they reported meditating for more than 30 minutes/day.
Average meditative practice of participants included in the study
was less than 1.7 hours per month. Of participants who reported
meditating, only eight reported practicing some version of LKM,
and results are unchanged if these participants are excluded from
analyses.
Procedure
To assess the affective impact of LKM, we examined its effects
on positive and negative mood. To assess the impact of LKM on
affective responses to the self and others, we measured partici-
pants’ explicit and implicit evaluative responses to photographs of
themselves, a close other,
1
as well as three neutral strangers,
matched to the participant’s gender, age, and ethnicity,
2
before and
after a guided visualization directed toward a photograph of one of
the neutral strangers. To control for nonspecific effects of medi-
tation on general (nonsocial) emotional responding, we also as-
sessed responses to a nonsocial object (a lamp). All photos were
edited to appear against a gray background.
Following baseline assessment of explicit and implicit responses
to the six photographs, as well as mood, participants were ran-
domly assigned to complete either a guided loving-kindness med-
itation (LKM) or neutral imagery induction (IMAGERY). Instruc-
tions were presented over speakers, and lasted about seven
minutes. All participants began with the instruction to close their
eyes, relax, and take deep breaths.
In the LKM condition (n45), this was followed by instruc-
tions to imagine two loved ones standing to either side of the
participant and sending their love. After four minutes, participants
were told to open their eyes and redirect these feelings of love and
compassion toward the photograph of a neutral stranger appearing
in the center of the screen. Participants repeated a series of phrases
designed to bring attention to the other, and to wish them health,
happiness, and well-being.
In the IMAGERY condition (n48), which was designed to be
as structurally similar as possible to the LKM instructions while
remaining affectively neutral, participants first imagined two ac-
quaintances that they did not know very well and for whom they
did not have strong feelings standing to either side of them.
Participants were instructed to focus on each acquaintance’s phys-
ical appearance. After 4 minutes, the participants were told to open
their eyes, look at a photograph of a neutral stranger, focus their
attention on the visual details of the stranger’s face (e.g., shape of
the eyebrows) and imagine details of the stranger’s appearance
(e.g., what clothes they might be wearing).
For both groups, a second set of explicit and implicit evaluation
measures and mood probes followed the 7-min visualization pro-
cedure. Finally, participants completed a set of demographic ques-
tionnaires, were thanked, debriefed, and paid.
Measures
Mood. To assess changes in affect accompanying the manip-
ulation, and to examine whether it mediated changes in explicit or
implicit evaluations of others, participants indicated their current
mood. Positive (calm, happy,loving) and negative (angry, anxious,
unhappy) terms were averaged to create separate positive (␣⫽
.68) and negative (␣⫽.67) mood composites.
Explicit evaluative responses. For each picture, participants
indicated how connected, similar, and positive they felt toward
the subject on a seven-point Likert scale. An explicit positive
evaluation composite was created using these responses (aver-
age ␣⫽.82).
Implicit evaluative responses. To assess implicit responses to
each picture, we used an affective priming task developed by
Fazio, Sanbonmatsu, Powell, and Kardes (1986). On each trial, a
fixation appeared for 2 s. One of the photographs then appeared for
315 ms, followed by a 135-ms fixation. Each face was presented
18 times in random order, followed once each by nine positive
words (e.g., brilliant, loyal) and nine negative words (e.g., cruel,
immoral). Each word appeared for 1,750 ms. Participants were
instructed to judge as quickly and accurately as possible whether
the word was positive or negative. Implicit evaluations were de-
termined by taking the difference between the average response
time to positive and negative words following a particular prime.
An implicit positive response manifests as a bias to respond faster
to positive words, and slower to negative words, after the prime.
Data from six participants who failed to respond or responded
incorrectly on 20% of trials were excluded.
Results
Mood Effects
To test whether LKM had mood effects compared to IMAG-
ERY, we conducted separate 2 (group) 2 (time) analyses of
variance (ANOVAs) on positive and negative mood. We observed
a significant Group Time interaction for positive mood, F(1,
82) 11.17, p.001, p
rep
.99,
p
2
.12, and a marginal
interaction for negative mood, F(1, 82) 3.46, p.07, p
rep
.85,
p
2
.04. Participants in the LKM group became more
positive, M
pre
4.82, M
post
5.55, t(38) 5.03, p.001, p
rep
.99, d⬘⫽.77, and less negative, M
pre
2.46, M
post
1.91,
1
Participants provided a full frontal digital photograph of an age- and
gender-matched close other prior to the laboratory session. A photograph
was taken of the participant in the lab, just prior to the experimental task.
2
Photographs of faces were obtained from an online face database
developed by Minear and Park (2004).
721
BRIEF REPORTS
t(38) 4.31, p.001, p
rep
.99, d⬘⫽.60 following meditation.
Mood did not significantly change in the IMAGERY group.
Explicit Evaluative Responses
To test whether LKM had effects on explicit positivity (com-
pared with IMAGERY), we conducted a 6 (photo: self, close,
visualization target, neutral 1, neutral 2, object) 2 (time: base-
line, postvisualization) 2 (group: LKM, IMAGERY) repeated-
measures ANOVA on the explicit evaluation composite. We pre-
dicted and observed a significant three-way interaction between
photo, time, and group, F(5, 87) 2.42, p.04, p
rep
.90,
p
2
.03. Decomposition of this effect indicated that both groups be-
came more positive toward the target after the visualization, LKM:
t(44) 5.42, p.001, p
rep
.99, d⬘⫽.89; IMAGERY: t(47)
2.27, p.03, p
rep
.91, d⬘⫽.24; however, this effect was
stronger in the LKM group, F(1, 91) 5.80, p.02, p
rep
.99,
p
2
.03. Furthermore, only the LKM group also became signif-
icantly more positive toward the nontarget neutral strangers (both
ts3.3, both ps.002) and toward the object ( p.01) (see
Table 1). Although this latter finding indicates that the effects we
observed arise from a generalized shift toward positive responding,
responses to self and close other did not change; moreover, effects
of LKM for each neutral face remained significant after controlling
for change in positivity toward the object (all ps.01).
To determine whether mood changes accounted for changes in
explicit positivity, we performed a mediation analysis using group
status and change in positivity as the independent and dependent
variables, and mood change as the mediator. Change in positive
mood (but not negative mood) significantly correlated with change
in positivity toward the target (r.39, p.001), and average
evaluations across the two nontarget strangers (r.33, p.003).
Furthermore, the results of a Sobel ztest (Sobel, 1982) indicated
that change in mood partially mediated the difference between the
LKM and IMAGERY groups for the target (z 2.19, p.03),
and nontargets (z 1.74, p.08), although it did not mediate
change in positivity toward the object (z 1.24, p.22).
Controlling for mood, the effect of group status on explicit posi-
tivity was only marginally significant for the target ( p.09), but
remained significant, albeit at a reduced level, for the nontarget
strangers ( p.005). Change in mood explained 10% of the
change in positivity toward the target, and 5% of change toward
the nontarget strangers.
Implicit Evaluative Responses
To test whether LKM had effects on implicit positive evalua-
tions (compared to IMAGERY), we conducted a 6 (face) 2
(time) 2 (group) repeated-measures ANOVA on the implicit
positive evaluation measure. We predicted and observed a signif-
icant 3-way interaction between photo, time, and group, F(5,
81) 2.31, p.04, p
rep
.89,
p
2
.03. Follow-up repeated
measures conducted separately for each face indicated that there
were significant group time interactions for only two faces: the
target of visualization, F(1, 85) 5.80, p.02, p
rep
.93,
p
2
.06, and the self, F(1, 85) 5.47, p.02, p
rep
.93,
p
2
.06.
Participants became significantly more positive toward the target
after LKM, t(41) 2.39, p.02, p
rep
.93, d⬘⫽.36, but did not
change after neutral imagery, t(44) 1.04, p.3; see Table 2. A
group time interaction also achieved significance for the self;
however, paired ttests comparing changes within each group fell
just short of significance. Participants became marginally more
positive toward the self, t(41) 1.56, p.12, p
rep
.80, d⬘⫽.22
after LKM, but marginally more negative after IMAGERY,
t(41) 1.56, p.09, p
rep
.83, d⬘⫽.24. Implicit positivity
toward nontarget neutral strangers did not change significantly
(both ps.25). No changes were observed in positivity toward the
close other or the object, and the increase in positivity seen toward
the target in the LKM group remained significant after controlling
for changes in positivity either toward the object or the two
nontarget neutral faces (all ps.05).
To determine whether mood changes accounted for changes in
implicit positivity in a manner similar to explicit positivity, we
examined whether mood mediated the effect of group on changes
in implicit positivity. However, neither positive nor negative mood
change correlated with implicit evaluations, and Sobel tests indi-
cated that mood did not mediate the effects of meditation on
implicit responses (z.82, p.41). Furthermore, the three-way
interaction between face, time and group in a repeated measures
ANOVA of affective priming remained significant after control-
ling for change in positive and negative mood ( p.02).
3
Mood
accounted for 1% of the change in implicit positivity for both the
target and neutral strangers. Thus, although changes in mood
accompanying meditation appeared to mediate changes in explicit
positivity toward others, they did not account for changes in
implicit positivity.
Discussion
The benefits of identifying techniques for increasing social
connection and positivity are increasingly apparent in the face of
rising societal isolation and distrust. Yet while it is easy to espouse
high-minded ideals of love and harmony with all individuals, it is
often quite difficult to implement them. The process of impression
formation can proceed spontaneously and without conscious effort
(Todorov & Uleman, 2003), and in situations of cognitive load, for
example, resources may not be available to monitor and control the
3
Results were comparable when controlling for raw mood measures.
Table 1
Change in Explicit Evaluative Responses After Loving-Kindness
Meditation (LKM) or Neutral Imagery Induction (IMAGERY)
Photograph
LKM
(n45)
IMAGERY
(n48)
MSEMSE
Target 1.13
ⴱⴱ
0.21 0.33
0.15
Nontarget 1 0.62
ⴱⴱ
0.15 0.08 0.13
Nontarget 2 0.49
ⴱⴱ
0.14 0.01 0.14
Self 0.13 0.13 0.11 0.08
Close 0.20 0.14 0.06 0.11
Object 0.37
0.14 0.01 0.14
Note. Presents change pre- to postmanipulation in explicit evaluations,
which were assessed by using a 7-point Likert scale.
p.05.
ⴱⴱ
p.005.
722 BRIEF REPORTS
expression of more automatic evaluative responses (Van Knippen-
berg, Dijksterhuis, & Vermeulen, 1999). Furthermore, although
external, stimulus-driven cues (such as category membership or
descriptions of a person’s moral behavior) can quickly create
implicit evaluations (Castelli, Zogmaister, Smith, & Arcuri, 2004),
it is less clear that automatic affective responses can be as easily
manufactured through top-down, intentionally controlled pro-
cesses. Can conscious efforts to achieve socially harmonious mo-
tivations create real, automatic affective responses?
The present study demonstrated significant effects of loving-
kindness meditation on both explicit and implicit positivity toward
neutral strangers. Even a brief (7-min) exercise in cultivating
positive regard was sufficient to induce changes of small to mod-
erate effect size. These results were observed in comparison to a
tightly matched neutral imagery task that controlled for effects of
exposure, relaxation, and cognitive activity. On an explicit level,
LKM had both general and specific effects, increasing positivity
significantly not only toward its target, but also toward other strang-
ers. On an implicit level, however, the effects of meditation were most
pronounced for its target, with little or no impact on responses toward
nontarget neutral strangers. Some changes in implicit positivity were
also observed toward the self, a finding in keeping with one of the
goals of LKM, to become more accepting of the self. Changes in
mood mediated effects on explicit evaluations, but neither mood nor
explicit evaluations accounted for the implicit effects.
The convergence and divergence of the effects of LKM on
explicit and implicit responding raise a number of interesting
questions, and suggest several avenues for future research. One
particularly interesting question concerns the ways in which ex-
plicit or implicit effects of LKM relate to social behavior. Implicit
measures such as the Implicit Association Test or the affective
priming task used in this study may be more difficult to con-
sciously manipulate than explicit reports (Kim, 2003). Moreover,
explicit attitudes often predict controlled behavior while implicit
measures predict spontaneous, nonverbal behavior (e.g., Dovidio,
Kawakami, & Gaertner, 2002). Future research will be needed to
determine whether the implicit positivity that we observed in this
study is more strongly tied to pro-social behavior than explicit
reports, or predicts behavior under conditions of cognitive load.
The results of our study provide the first evidence that LKM can
impact responding at an automatic level, but raise important ques-
tions concerning mechanism. Of particular importance will be to
determine the active ingredients that made our manipulation suc-
cessful, particularly at the implicit level. LKM may be viewed as
a single instantiation of a family of internally generated, con-
sciously controlled techniques for regulating emotion and motiva-
tion (Gross, 1998), and was associated with large changes in mood
and affect. However, simple explicitly reported mood changes did
not account for increases in implicit positivity. Future work will
thus be needed to develop a more detailed understanding of the
critical emotional and cognitive factors mediating the effects of
meditation on implicit evaluations. Are the implicit effects we
observed primarily driven by particular affective or physiological
changes induced by the meditation, or are they driven more by the
repetition of particular thoughts during the procedure?
Although we used a control condition that matched LKM for
many low-level features, such as simply viewing a person’s face,
there are also many ways in which the two procedures may have
differed. LKM may have recruited processes of verbal elaboration,
perspective taking, and emotional or physiological arousal that
may have contributed either separately or in combination to the
explicit and implicit effects we observed. One way to tease apart
the contribution of these different ingredients will involve inves-
tigating the efficacy of simpler methods containing single elements
of the LKM procedure. For example, would simple perspective
taking or individuation (e.g., Wheeler & Fiske, 2005) be enough to
induce the implicit positivity observed as a result of LKM? Would
externally produced positive mood induction be equally effective,
or do effects depend on the type of emotion induced (e.g., pride vs.
compassion)?
Another set of questions arises when comparing our manipula-
tion to loving-kindness meditation as it is typically practiced.
Often, the focus in LKM is on expanding compassion and care to
larger social groups, or even to disliked others. In our study we
required participants to focus on a single, neutral individual. We
observed generalization to other, nontarget individuals at an ex-
plicit level, but these effects did not translate as strongly to implicit
evaluations. Whether a meditative practice with a more expansive
focus, in which people focus not on a single individual but delib-
erately attempt to evoke compassion for larger numbers of people,
can have effects on implicit positivity remains an open question.
Can love or concern be fostered in a way that extends to others
who have not been the direct focus of the meditation? Can it be
used not just to induce positive emotion toward neutral strangers,
but to counteract the automatic negative feelings engendered by
disliked others, such as competitors or people with whom one has
had difficult or upsetting interactions? In our study, participants
focused on a person of the same gender and race, making the target
of meditation fairly similar. Would meditation be as effective if it
were focused on out-group members? How does it compare in
effectiveness to other techniques for reducing explicit or implicit
negative attitudes (e.g., Rudman et al., 2001)?
A final set of questions concerns the durability and real-world
consequences of these effects. A small but growing literature
suggests that other types of meditation may have important ben-
efits for mental well-being and immune function (Davidson et al.,
2003). Does LKM have similar effects? Can it impact real-life
decision-making behavior, or have effects that endure beyond a
single laboratory session? One outcome of continued meditative
practice may be to transform the transient affective changes that
occur during and shortly after meditation into longer lasting, more
Table 2
Change in Implicit Evaluative Responses After Loving-Kindness
Meditation (LKM) or Neutral Imagery Induction (IMAGERY)
Photograph
LKM (n42) IMAGERY (n45)
M SEMSE
Target 53.88
22.55 23.83 22.98
Nontarget 1 27.93 28.09 43.24 16.07
Nontarget 2 29.95 22.33 3.53 26.07
Self 25.91 20.43 32.67 17.59
Close 21.64 22.04 14.27 18.79
Object 9.66 18.76 5.57 21.23
Note. Table presents change pre- to postmanipulation in implicit evalu-
ations, which were measured as response time bias in milliseconds.
p.05.
723
BRIEF REPORTS
habitual patterns of responding (Brefczynski-Lewis, Lutz,
Schaefer, Levinson, & Davidson, 2007; Cahn & Polich, 2006), but
it is not yet known whether practiced loving-kindness meditators
would show more long-lasting or stronger effects. We believe that
questions such as these will guide the development of effective
interventions to increase a more deeply rooted sense of connection,
compassion, and concern for others in our daily lives.
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Received October 22, 2007
Revision received May 19, 2008
Accepted May 19, 2008
724 BRIEF REPORTS
... Social connectedness can be defined as the extent to which a person feels connected to other people, including the people depicted in advertisements (Hutcherson, Seppala, and Gross, 2008). It is also one of several known social effects of advertising. ...
... lead to positive advertisement effects for advertisements featuring older female decorative models. More specifically, because of the increased feelings of social connectedness with the decorative models featured in the advertisements, the authors proposed that advertisements featuring older women will improve attitudes toward the advertisements, as people generally like and feel positive toward things with which they feel connected (Hutcherson et al., 2008;Jeong and Kim, 2021). Thus, the authors predicted that advertisements featuring older female decorative models will have positive effects on attitudes toward the advertisement, compared with advertisements featuring younger female decorative models. ...
... The social effects of advertising are still understudied, but there is a growing interest in this research area (Eisend, 2019), and more research on the social effects of featuring older people in advertising is needed (Eisend, 2022). One such social effect in particular, social connectedness (Hutcherson et al., 2008), is receiving increased research attention, probably because of its ability to explain not only positive advertising and brand effects (Åkestam et al., 2017;Jeong and Kim, 2021;Liljedal et al., 2020) but also how audience connectedness can help create successful diversity initiatives (Burgess, Wilkie, and Dolan, 2020). ...
... Mindfulness may be practiced formally in a meditation setting by paying attention to sensations that arise in the body, including one's sense of well-being or interoception (Hanley et al., 2017), and by cultivating a somatic sense of care and connection with others (Hutcherson et al., 2008;Salzberg, 1995). These practices have gained steam in some organizations with the aim of increasing employee wellbeing and in others as an approach to leadership development (Brendel & Bennett, 2016). ...
... Various formal decentering meditation practices (Brown & Ryan, 2003;Shapiro et al., 2006), involve expanding attention into PC so deeply that the subjectifying language of 'I, me, and mine,' and objectifying language of 'them and others' are no longer separated or identified (Dunne, 2011;Fucci et al., 2018). Through this process, an individual senses being 'one with' (Hutcherson et al., 2008), rather than merely a 'part of' a collective (see Figure 2 on page 53). Decentering practices, which interrupt ego anxieties, include formal meditation practices from Vedic and Chinese traditions, including Transcendental and Qigong ( Travis & Shear, 2010) as well as Choiceless Awareness (Kabat-Zinn, 2016) and Shikantaza (Leighton & Wu, 2000). ...
... Formal mindfulness practices may also be utilized to systematically dismantle existing biases in the workplace. For instance, Loving-Kindness Meditation, a form of mindfulness practice that locates and identifies the sensations we often associate with compassion and wishing others well-being ( Salzberg, 1995), is empirically demonstrated to strengthen one's sense of social connection with others (Hutcherson et al., 2008) and decrease intergroup biases (Kang et al., 2014) as well as racial biases (Stell & Farsides, 2016). Similar forms of meditation are shown to help decrease physi cian bias toward patients (Burgess et al., 2017), age, and race bias (Lueke & Gibson, 2015), and have recently been positioned as a remedy for 'White ignorance' (Polinska, 2018). ...
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... Group-based PT may also have negative effects on parents' relationships, making it essential we understand factors that support and hinder SC (Hutcherson et al., 2008;Lee & Robbins, 1995). Hostile group environments, such as those lacking member cooperation or safe supportive spaces, may have negative implications for participants' SC (Hutcherson et al., 2008). ...
... Group-based PT may also have negative effects on parents' relationships, making it essential we understand factors that support and hinder SC (Hutcherson et al., 2008;Lee & Robbins, 1995). Hostile group environments, such as those lacking member cooperation or safe supportive spaces, may have negative implications for participants' SC (Hutcherson et al., 2008). Under these negative group circumstances, parents may stop attending group sessions, be less likely to use the PT skills taught, or feel less engaged and trusting of the program and their child's school. ...
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... Our focussed imagery meditation condition served as an ideal control task, as it contained basic meditative practices (e.g., focussing on breathing and one's body in space) but did not contain any information about compassion. In line with past approaches (Hutcherson et al., 2008;Kirby and Baldwin, 2018), this allowed us to isolate the effect of reflecting on being compassionate from the practice of general mindfulness. See Supplementary materials 4 for full scripts of each meditation. ...
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Amid a global pandemic and the climate crisis, there is an increasing need to understand how to promote largescale, coordinated action between different groups. Yet certain factors such as inequality can hinder cooperation. We aimed to establish how to orient groups toward a superordinate goal when they have unequal resources. Participants were divided into two ‘countries’ and asked to assemble LEGO bricks into food (by building pieces in a certain order) to prevent starvation among ‘the people’. One ‘country’ had few LEGO bricks whereas the other had an abundance, and the only way to maximize food creation was for the groups to work together. We assessed the efficacy of three diverse interventions on superordinate behavior and attitudes: compassion meditation training (Study 1), lower inequality (Study 2), and the introduction of a pro-sharing group norm by a confederate (Study 3). Compassion meditation training and altering the degree of inequality between groups did not have a clear effect on collaborative action. Only the introduction of a pro-sharing group norm enhanced sharing behavior, made participants feel more cooperative and reduced fears of being compassionate toward others. Our findings speak to the importance of leadership in promoting coordinated action to address challenges that face the superordinate group.
... Also, gratitude interventions build positive relationships, since they increase trust, connectedness with others, the likelihood one will engage in prosocial behavior, empathy, intimacy, relationship satisfaction, and perceived quality of friendships (Kerr et al., 2015;O'Connell et al., 2018;Parnell et al., 2020). In addition, love and kindness interventions increase the levels of trust, social skills, acceptance of others, positive social interactions, social support, and sense of connectedness (Hutcherson et al., 2008;Kerr et al., 2015;Symeonidou et al., 2019). Taking everything into account, psychological interventions based on interpersonal character strengths have been found to build positive relationships with others. ...
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... It is often used to heal depression and improve relationships by building empathy. Trainees with this protocol first intend to activate positive emotional states associated with loving-kindness and compassion (Hutcherson, Seppala and Gross, 2008), gratitude (Kyeong et al., 2017) or forgiveness meditation practices (Menahem and Love, 2013) and then 'do something' with the positive emotional energy arising from these mental states. For instance, trainees can move this emotional energy around their bodies to target an unhealthy organ or 'send out' this positive energy with healing intentions to other people. ...
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This practice research developed two prototype brain-computer music interfacing (BCMI) systems to support meditation practices. The second, more advanced system, BCMI-2, was tested to help induce and maintain a specific meditative state, the shamanic state of consciousness (SSC), first with two trainees in a non-clinical neurofeedback training (NFT) setting and then with my own brain signals in an artistic performance setting. In both settings, the system generated soundscapes with two entrainment methods to support the meditation: (1) auditory rhythmic entrainment (ARE) generating drumming gradually decreasing in tempo and rhythmic complexity and (2) a neurofeedback protocol rewarding increased theta brainwaves at Fz with a reward sound embedded as an integral element within the computer-generated drumming. In addition to these techniques, the performance setting also mapped hemispheric coherence measurements to surround sound spatialisation to help increase my and the meditating audience's feeling of immersion. The main contribution of this research is the creation of the BCMI-2 system and recommendations based on the knowledge gained while developing and testing its suitability to support meditation practices in NFT and artistic performance settings. BCMI-2 is fully open-source, affordable and uses the research-grade OpenBCI Cyton electroencephalograph to record multi-channel brain signals. The project contributes practical knowledge to the field. It could be of interest to NFT practitioners wishing to design immersive soundscapes for neurofeedback protocols, artists wishing to express themselves with physiological computing and meditation practitioners wishing to understand meditation from a scientific perspective.
... The evidence to date suggests that these types of practices can reduce political intergroup bias [14] (see also [15]), with effects mediated by perceived commonality with the political outgroup [16]. Other research has also shown that such practices may increase social and nature connectedness [17][18][19], but the relationship between loving-kindness and compassion-based practices and human-animal relations remain largely unexplored. ...
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In two studies using samples representative of the US adult population with regard to age, sex and ethnicity, we investigated relationships between loving-kindness and compassion-based practices with speciesism, animal solidarity and desire to help animals. In a cross-sectional study (Study 1, N = 2,822), results showed that past 30 days practice and estimated lifetime number of hours of lovingkindness or compassion meditation were associated with more animal solidarity and greater desire to help animals. Past 30 days practice was also associated with less speciesism, but only when adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics. In an experimental study (Study 2, N = 1,102), results showed that participants randomized to a befriending meditation (a practice similar to loving-kindness and compassion meditation) condition scored higher on animal solidarity and desire to help animals than participants randomized to a control condition. No significant difference was observed on speciesism, but mediation analyses suggested that effects on all three outcomes were mediated through perceived commonality with animals.
... In this study, we address this by demonstrating the factors which influence audience connectedness. Connected audiences are important, as they are often characterised by feelings of positivity, belonging and optimism (Hutcherson et al., 2008;Khan et al., 2021). Further, connected audiences feel they and those they hold relationships with are adequately represented in an advertisement (Åkestam et al., 2017;Khan et al., 2021). ...
... Sobolewski et al. demonstrate that meditators are able to regulate the action of their brain by minimizing the effect of negative emotions, without altering the effect of positive emotions [137]. Studies on another type of meditation, such as the meditation of loving-kindness meditation, reveal that it generates an improvement in positive social emotions that might result in the reduction of isolation [138]. ...
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