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Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 54, Issue 6, pp 2324–2343 | Cite as

Training Emotion Cultivates Morality: How Loving-Kindness Meditation Hones Compassion and Increases Prosocial Behavior

  • Joseph BankardEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Traditional moral philosophy has long focused on rationality, principled thinking, and good old-fashioned willpower, but recent evidence strongly suggests that moral judgments and prosocial behavior are more heavily influenced by emotion and intuition. As the evidence mounts, rational traditions emphasizing deliberative analysis and conscious decision making are called into question. The first section highlights some compelling evidence supporting the primacy of affective states in motivating moral judgments and behavior. The real challenge is finding a way to align intuition with desired behavior. In cool reflective states, one may desire to be a kind and loving person. But when it is time to act, the moment is often accompanied by strong affect-laden intuitions. I argue that if affective states are the primary motivators of behavior, then moral sentiments must be trained through habituation in order to increase prosocial behavior. The second section provides empirical evidence linking emotional training with increased prosociality. To highlight this connection, focus is placed on the relationship between habitual meditation training, compassion, and prosocial behavior. Recent studies by Antoine Lutz, Richard Davidson, Susanne Leiberg, and others show that various meditation practices can dramatically affect the human person at various levels, i.e., increased physical health, neural restructuring, regulation and development of emotions, and increased helping behavior, to name a few. The current article focuses on the impact the habit of loving-kindness meditation (LKM) has on compassion and prosocial behavior. Recent studies strongly support the conclusion that LKM training hones compassion and ultimately leads to an increase in compassionate behavior.

Keywords

Morality Emotion Intuition Loving-kindness meditation Compassion Prosocial behavior Moral psychology 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northwest Nazarene UniversityNampaUSA

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