Loving-Kindness Meditation and Compassion Meditation: Do They Affect Emotions in a Different Way?



Despite being often overlapped and used interchangeably in academic literature, loving-kindness meditation (LKM) and compassion meditation (CM) are also seen to have their distinct features. As a differential approach towards LKM and CM can promote a more accurate integration of these practices into the clinical field, it is worth studying their differential effects. The present preregistered study, thus, aimed to experimentally compare effects of single-session LKM and CM on first-time practitioners’ emotions.


Two hundred and one university students were randomly allocated to three (LKM, CM, and control) groups. The self-reported emotions were measured twice, before and after completing an assigned task.


Both LKM and CM significantly increased other-focused positive emotions, compared with the control condition. Both LKM and CM increased happiness and overall positive emotions and decreased sadness; however, the effect sizes of LKM were consistently larger compared to those of CM. Both LKM and CM significantly increased low arousal positive emotions, compared with the control condition.


LKM and CM represent two theoretically different practices. However, as they belong to the same tradition of meditation, they are similar in their intention of forming positive wishes towards self and others, and this appeared to have a positive effect on practitioners’ emotional experience. At the same time, LKM was found to be more effective in evoking positive emotions in first-time practitioners, compared with CM.

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Fig. 1
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Data Availability

All data are available at the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/6dk9g/).


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The authors are grateful to Dr. John H. Riskind for facilitating data collection from the undergraduate pool at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA; to Dr. Tomas Jurcik for assisting in developing the research design; and to Eleanor A. Jones for editing the first draft of the paper.

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US conceptualized the study and collected, processed, and analyzed the data. Both authors developed the design and prepared the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ulyana Sirotina.

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Sirotina, U., Shchebetenko, S. Loving-Kindness Meditation and Compassion Meditation: Do They Affect Emotions in a Different Way?. Mindfulness 11, 2519–2530 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01465-9

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  • Meditation
  • Emotions
  • Compassion
  • Loving-kindness
  • Four immeasurables
  • Buddhism