Compassion meditation enhances empathic accuracy and related neural activity

The ability to accurately infer others’ mental states from facial expressions is important for optimal social functioning and is fundamentally impaired in social cognitive disorders such as autism. While pharmacologic interventions have shown promise for enhancing empathic accuracy, little is known about the effects of behavioral interventions on empathic accuracy and related brain activity. This study employed a randomized, controlled and longitudinal design to investigate the effect of a secularized analytical compassion meditation program, cognitive-based compassion training (CBCT), on empathic accuracy. Twenty-one healthy participants received functional MRI scans while completing an empathic accuracy task, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), both prior to and after completion of either CBCT or a health discussion control group. Upon completion of the study interventions, participants randomized to CBCT and were significantly more likely than control subjects to have increased scores on the RMET and increased neural activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC). Moreover, changes in dmPFC and IFG activity from baseline to the post-intervention assessment were associated with changes in empathic accuracy. These findings suggest that CBCT may hold promise as a behavioral intervention for enhancing empathic accuracy and the neurobiology supporting it.

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Posted in Compassion, Empathy, Meditation | Tagged , ,

Familiarity promotes the blurring of self and other in the neural representation of threat

Neurobiological investigations of empathy often support an embodied simulation account. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we monitored statistical associations between brain activations indicating self-focused threat to those indicating threats to a familiar friend or an unfamiliar stranger. Results in regions such as the anterior insula, putamen, and supramarginal gyrus indicate that self-focused threat activations are robustly correlated with friend-focused threat activations but not stranger-focused threat activations. These results suggest that one of the defining features of human social bonding may be increased levels of overlap between neural representations of self and other. This article presents a novel and important methodological approach to fMRI empathy studies, which informs how differences in brain activation can be detected in such studies and how covariate approaches can provide novel and important information regarding the brain and empathy.

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Posted in Empathy, Familiarity, Iinterpersonal relationships, Prosocial behavior | Tagged , , ,

Mothers’ personality traits and the climate for creativity they build with their children

Parents’ attitudes, behaviors, and traits are significant predictors of their children’s creative ability. Not much is known, however, about intentional actions taken by parents to develop and support children’s creativity. Based on a literature review and a pilot study (Kwaśniewska & Lebuda, 2017) we have formulated four factors that make up the climate for creativity in a parent-child relationship. To verify the construct empirically, we administered an originally designed questionnaire to mothers in Poland (N = 3073). The analysis of results confirms, as predicted, that the following factors contribute to the climate for creativity in the home environment: encouragement to experience novelty and variety, encouragement of nonconformism, support of perseverance in creative efforts, and encouragement to fantasize. Next, we investigated how mothers’ Big Five personality traits were linked to particular climate dimensions. Our findings show that openness to experience is the key positive predictor of mothers’ activities that shape the climate for creativity in her relationship with the child. The other Big Five traits are associated either positively or negatively with particular dimensions of the climate for creativity.

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Posted in Children, Children’s creativity, Creativity, Mothers | Tagged , , ,

Complexity theory

This book is designed to be an overview to the core concepts within complexity theory, presented in an intuitive form that should be accessible to anyone with an interest in the subject. Complexity theory is an exciting new area that is offering us a fresh perspective on many important issues, such as understanding our financial systems, ecosystems, and large social organizations. The aim of this book is to bring the often abstract and sophisticated concepts of this subject down to earth and understandable in an intuitive form. After starting with an overview to complex systems science and its context, we will focus on five of the core concepts within complexity theory.

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Complexity explained

Complexity science also called complex systems science, studies how a large collection of components – locally interacting with each other at the small scales – can spontaneously self-organize to exhibit non-trivial global structures and behaviors at larger scales, often without external intervention, central authorities or leaders. The properties of the collection may not be understood or predicted from the full knowledge of its constituents alone. Such a collection is called a complex system and it requires new mathematical frameworks and scientific methodologies for its investigation. Here are a few things you should know about complex systems.

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Love as Dependency, Attachment, Trust, and Honesty

This chapter discusses the experience and expression of dependency, attachment, trust, and honesty in love. In positive ways, these experiences create the feelings of security and comfort, yet, in case of violation of expectations makes people suffering. One topic, which is not covered in this chapter, is the experience of tolerance and acceptance. Although it seems the key for endurance of love relationship, yet cross-cultural studies have not investigated this topic so far.

The chapter reviews the variety of experiences and expressions of dependency, attachment, trust, and honesty in love, the methods and measures, which researchers employed to study those, and the results that they obtained in their studies. This chapter describes in detail (1) the research designs, (2) methods, (3) instruments and measures, (4) samples (including their location, sample size, and other details), and (5) the data and results of studies (including descriptive statistics, such as means and size of correlations).

The details of descriptive statistics help readers understand what the differences in the means for cultural samples are, what is the size of correlations, and other statistics. These details allow readers to make independent judgments about reliability and validity of results.

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Posted in Attachment, Dependency, Honesty, Love, Trust | Tagged , , , ,

Will Helping Others Also Benefit You? Adolescents’ Altruistic Personality Traits and Life Satisfaction

The importance of improving adolescents’ quality of life is widely known, especially with the proliferation of so-called “diseases of civilization” (e.g., stress, anxiety, depression, tension, panic). According to numerous previous studies, personality is a very important influencer of life satisfaction, and altruistic personality is considered an important and positive personality type. Altruism might, therefore, be an effective way to improve adolescents’ life satisfaction. However, under a market economy, it is difficult to form widespread social customs of altruism. Will helping others also benefit you, representing a win-win situation? Against this background, we conduct the first exploration of the relationship between altruistic personality and life satisfaction. A sample of 428 adolescents completed measures of altruism, life satisfaction, and emotion. The main findings were as follows: (1) adolescents with higher levels of altruism have more positive emotions, fewer negative emotions, and higher life satisfaction; (2) emotions mediated the relationship between altruistic personality traits and life satisfaction; (3) empathy predicted life satisfaction not only directly but also indirectly through positive and negative emotions; (4) social responsibility predicted life satisfaction not only directly but also indirectly through positive emotions; (5) interpersonal trust predicted life satisfaction through negative emotions; (6) sociability predicted life satisfaction through positive emotions. In a word, helping others will benefit yourself as well. These findings are of great practical and theoretical significance for improving adolescents’ quality of life, enriching their personality, and enhancing their positive psychological experience. This study’s results can also contribute to instilling the positive social custom of “one for all, all for one”.

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Posted in Adolescents, Altruism, Life satisfaction | Tagged , ,

Relationships Between Humility and Emotional and Psychological Well-Being

The present research is a preliminary investigation of the concurrent and temporal relationships between humility and two forms of well-being: emotional and psychological well-being. Humility, emotional well-being, and psychological well-being were measured twice 6 weeks apart. Humility correlated positively with psychological well-being at both time-points but was positively related to emotional well-being at only one time-point. In addition, we used structural equation modeling to perform cross-lagged panel analyses and found that psychological well-being predicted an increase in humility over time, but humility did not predict changes in psychological well-being over time. In addition, there were no cross-lagged associations between emotional well-being and humility. The results suggest that humility does not necessarily lead to more pleasant or fulfilling experiences, but psychological well-being is conducive to cultivating humility.

To conclude, while past studies have shown that humility bestows several interpersonal and intrapersonal adaptive benefits, we found that being humble may not lead to more pleasant or fulfilling experiences, and emotionally pleasant experiences do not promote humility. However, psychological well-being predicts an increase in humility over time. Hence, fulfilling experiences can be a vital source for cultivating humility.

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Posted in Emotional Well-Being, Humility, Psychological Well-Being | Tagged , ,

Does Our Age Affect the Way we Live? A Study on Strategies Across the Life Span

This study set out to explore the savoring strategies used by adolescents, adults and the elderly with a view to contributing to theory on age and savoring. A sample of 1018 Portuguese participants, answered the Positive Experiences Questionnaire, a self-report questionnaire with open-ended questions on savoring strategies used to prolong or intensify the positive emotions associated with positive events, in addition to their respective efficacy. The data content analysis showed that participants use complex strategy patterns to up-regulate their positive emotional experiences, comprising cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, volitional and sensory strategies. Age differences in savoring were identified, with the adolescents mostly referring to interpersonal strategies, namely taking care of relationships, and the adult and elderly participants predominantly recalling cognitive strategies, more specifically sharing with others and having thoughts of faith or thankfulness, respectively. The majority of participants considered the savoring strategies used to be efficacious and no significant associations were found between the lifespan groups in this regard. These findings may further the understanding of documented differences in subjective well-being across the life-span and inform intervention efforts in this domain. The article closes by suggesting directions for future studies.

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Posted in Life span, Savoring | Tagged ,

The Relationship Between Curiosity, Engagement, and Student Development

This paper examines relationships among curiosity, engagement, and student development across five domains—(1) cognitive complexity, (2) knowledge acquisition, construction, integration, and application, (3) humanitarianism and civic engagement, (4) intrapersonal and interpersonal development, and (5) practical competence. Although extant research examines antecedents and outcomes of engagement extensively, no study explicitly assesses curiosity, engagement, and student development. Results suggest that engagement mediates epistemic and perceptual types of curiosity and student development. Educators and administrators can use these findings to create engaging education during which curiosity swiftly transforms into holistic student development.

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Posted in Curiosity, Curiosity-based learning, Engagement, Student | Tagged , , ,