Mindfulness

, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp 1063–1070

The Head and the Heart: Effects of Understanding and Experiencing Lovingkindness on Attitudes Toward the Self and Others

ORIGINAL PAPER

Abstract

Formation and maintenance of compassionate and loving attitudes toward the self and others is essential for adaptive social functioning. In this study, we use lovingkindness meditation to enhance positive attitudes toward the self and others. Meditation-based programs often include several components for which specific effects and dynamics are largely unknown, precluding conclusive support for their effectiveness. The present study tested actions underlying two main components of lovingkindness meditation programs: discussion and meditation. Discussion focuses on a conceptual understanding of lovingkindness, whereas meditation focuses on direct experiences and cultivation of lovingkindness. Participants (n = 54) were randomly assigned either to attend a 6-week lovingkindness discussion course or to be waitlisted for 6 weeks, both followed by attending a 6-week lovingkindness meditation course. Attending the lovingkindness discussion course alone had beneficial effects on attitudes toward the self, but not others. Attending the lovingkindness meditation course had additional positive impacts on attitudes toward the self and others. These findings suggest that understanding ideas of lovingkindness through knowledge-based discussion without meditation may be sufficient to create positive changes in the view of self. However, for more comprehensive changes in attitude toward others, direct experiences of lovingkindness through meditation may be necessary.

Keywords

Meditation Lovingkindness Compassion Attitude Self 

References

  1. Bargh, J. A., Chen, M., & Burrow, L. (1996). Automaticity of social behavior: Direct effects of trait construct and stereotype activation on action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(2), 230–244.Google Scholar
  2. Bargh, J. A., Gollwitzer, P. M., Lee-Chai, A., Barndollar, K., & Trötschel, R. (2001). The automated will: Nonconscious activation and pursuit of behavioral goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1014–1027.Google Scholar
  3. Batson, C. D. (2014). The altruism question: toward a social-psychological answer. New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  4. Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2013). Activating the inner caregiver: the role of support-giving schemas in increasing state self-compassion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 58–64. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.07.015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brewer, J. A., Mallik, S., Babuscio, T. A., Nich, C., Johnson, H. E., Deleone, C. M., Minnix-Cotton, C. A., Byrne, S. A., Kober, H., Weinstein, A. J., Carroll, K. M., & Rounsaville, B. J. (2011). Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: results from a randomized controlled trial. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 119(1), 72–80.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Carson, J. W., Keefe, F. J., Lynch, T. R., Carson, K. M., Goli, V., Fras, A. M., & Thorp, S. R. (2005). Loving-kindness meditation for chronic low back pain results from a pilot trial. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 23(3), 287–304.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Depue, R. A., & Morrone-Strupinsky, J. V. (2005). A neurobehavioral model of affiliative bonding: Implications for conceptualizing a human trait of affiliation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28(3), 313–349.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Desbordes, G., Negi, L. T., Pace, T. W. W., Wallace, A., Raison, C. L., & Schwartz, E. L. (2012). Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 1–15. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Devine, P. G. (1989). Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56(1), 5–18.Google Scholar
  10. Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045–1062.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Gilbert, P. (2009a). The compassionate mind. London: Constable.Google Scholar
  12. Gilbert, P. (2009b). Introducing compassion-focused therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 15(3), 199–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gilbert, P., & Procter, S. (2006). Compassionate mind training for people with high shame and self–criticism: overview and pilot study of a group therapy approach. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 13(6), 353–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gilbert, P., McEwan, K., Gibbons, L., Chotai, S., Duarte, J., & Matos, M. (2012). Fears of compassion and happiness in relation to alexithymia, mindfulness and self-criticism. Psychology and Psychotherapy, 84, 239–255. doi:10.1348/147608310X526511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gregg, A. P., Seibt, B., & Banaji, M. R. (2006). Easier done than undone: asymmetry in the malleability of implicit preferences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(1), 1–20.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Hewstone, M. E., & Brown, R. E. (1986). Contact and conflict in intergroup encounters. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  17. Hutcherson, C. A., Seppala, E. M., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion, 8(5), 720–724.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Jazaieri, H., Jinpa, G. T., McGonigal, K., Rosenberg, E. L., Finkelstein, J., Simon-Thomas, E., Cullen, M., Doty, J. R., Gross, J. J., & Goldin, P. R. (2013). Enhancing compassion: a randomized controlled trial of a compassion cultivation training program. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1113–1126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kang, Y., Gray, J. R., & Dovidio, J. F. (2013a). The nondiscriminating heart: lovingkindness meditation training decreases implicit intergroup bias. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(3), 1306–1313. doi:10.1037/a0034150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kang, Y., Gruber, J., & Gray, J. R. (2013b). Mindfulness and de-automatization. Emotion Review, 5(2), 192–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kang, Y., Gruber, J., & Gray, J. R. (2014). Deautomatization of Cognitive and Emotional Life. The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Mindfulness, 1, 168.Google Scholar
  22. Kawakami, K., Dovidio, J. F., Moll, J., Hermsen, S., & Russin, A. (2000). Just say no (to stereotyping): effects of training in the negation of stereotypic associations on stereotype activation. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(5), 871.Google Scholar
  23. Klimecki, O. M., Leiberg, S., Lamm, C., & Singer, T. (2013). Functional neural plasticity and associated changes in positive affect after compassion training. Cerebral Cortex, 23(7), 1552–1561.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Kraus, S., & Sears, S. (2009). Measuring the immeasurables: development and initial validation of the Self-Other Four Immeasurables (SOFI) scale based on Buddhist teachings on loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Social Indicators Research, 92(1), 169–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kringelbach, M. L., & Berridge, K. C. (2009). Towards a functional neuroanatomy of pleasure and happiness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(11), 479–487. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2009.08.006.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Leiberg, S., Klimecki, O., & Singer, T. (2011). Short-term compassion training increases prosocial behavior in a newly developed prosocial game. PLoS ONE, 6(3), e17798. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017798.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Lepore, L., & Brown, R. (1997). Category and stereotype activation: Is prejudice inevitable?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 72(2), 275.Google Scholar
  28. Moskowitz, G. B., & Ignarri, C. (2009). Implicit volition and stereotype control. European Review of Social Psychology, 20(1), 97–145.Google Scholar
  29. Neff, K. D. (2003a). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2(3), 223–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Neff, K. (2003b). Self-compassion: an alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rothbart, M., & John, O. P. (1985). Social categorization and behavioral episodes: a cognitive analysis of the effects of intergroup contact. Journal of Social Issues, 41(3), 81–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rydell, R. J., & McConnell, A. R. (2006). Understanding implicit and explicit attitude change: a systems of reasoning analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(6), 995–1008.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Weng, H. Y., Fox, A. S., Shackman, A. J., Stodola, D. E., Caldwell, J. Z., Olson, M. C., et al. (2013). Compassion training alters altruism and neural responses to suffering. Psychological science, 24(7), 1171–1180.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Annenberg School for CommunicationUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMichigan State UniversityMichiganUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

Personalised recommendations