Positive and negative attitudes towards compassion predict compassionate outcomes


Compassion is multifaceted in both expression and motivation. It is influenced by a range of contextual and situational factors. This study aims to investigate how positive and negative attitudes towards compassion are associated with the presentation of compassionate outcomes. In particular, we examined how positive attitudes towards compassion (compassion satisfaction) and negative attitudes towards compassion (fears of compassion) can influence the presentation of compassion-related emotions, self-reported measures of empathy, compassion and compassionate behavior. Across two studies, positive attitudes toward compassion were robustly related to all three factors: emotions, self-reported expression, and compassionate behaviors. Similarly, negative attitudes toward compassion were related to emotions and self-reported expression, but not to compassionate behavior. The relationship was the strongest for fears of compassion for others. These results highlight the important role that attitudes play in facilitating or inhibiting compassionate outcomes. Implications and future directions are discussed.

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This study was funded by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University’s School of Medicine.

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Correspondence to James N. Kirby.

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Kirby, J.N., Seppälä, E., Wilks, M. et al. Positive and negative attitudes towards compassion predict compassionate outcomes. Curr Psychol (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00405-8

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  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Attitudes
  • Fears of compassion