In previous years, scientists documented many personal benefits resulting from mindfulness- and compassion-based meditation, including increases in health. There was less known, however, regarding the social and relational benefits of meditation. Thus, this project examined whether mindfulness and compassion-based meditation training increased the likelihood that people would act to relieve the suffering of others in real time. Following eight weeks of mindfulness or compassion-based training under the guidance of an expert meditation instructor, participants were exposed to the suffering of another individual. Upon arriving at the lab, participants sat in a waiting area occupied by two actresses. The participant took the last remaining seat, and, after one minute, a third actress entered the area using a walking boot and crutches. We examined whether participants offered their seat for the woman on crutches. Those completing eight weeks of meditation were three times more likely to offer their seat compared with a group of participants that did not receive such training. These results demonstrate the power of meditation to increase spontaneous actions aimed to relieve the suffering of others and suggest that the benefits of meditation extend beyond the individual completing the meditation training.

Paul Condon, PhD

Southern Oregon University

Fellow, Grantee, Reviewer

Dr. Paul Condon is a professor of psychology at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. His research examines the impact of meditation on social processes–including compassion, moral decision-making, and emotion … MORE