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Enhancing Compassion: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Compassion Cultivation Training Program

Abstract

Psychosocial interventions often aim to alleviate negative emotional states. However, there is growing interest in cultivating positive emotional states and qualities. One particular target is compassion, but it is not yet clear whether compassion can be trained. A community sample of 100 adults were randomly assigned to a 9-week compassion cultivation training (CCT) program (n = 60) or a waitlist control condition (n = 40). Before and after this 9-week period, participants completed self-report inventories that measured compassion for others, receiving compassion from others, and self-compassion. Compared to the waitlist control condition, CCT resulted in significant improvements in all three domains of compassion—compassion for others, receiving compassion from others, and self-compassion. The amount of formal meditation practiced during CCT was associated with increased compassion for others. Specific domains of compassion can be intentionally cultivated in a training program. These findings may have important implications for mental health and well-being.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a Fetzer grant awarded to Philippe Goldin and James Gross, as well funding from Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE). The authors of this manuscript do not have any direct or indirect conflicts of interest, financial or personal relationships or affiliations to disclose.

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Correspondence to Hooria Jazaieri.

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Jazaieri, H., Jinpa, G.T., McGonigal, K. et al. Enhancing Compassion: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Compassion Cultivation Training Program. J Happiness Stud 14, 1113–1126 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9373-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9373-z

Keywords

  • Compassion
  • Self-compassion
  • Meditation
  • Training