Contemplative practices cultivate well-being in oneself but also foster other-oriented emotions, such as empathy, perspective-taking, and compassion. This may be due to a reduction in egocentric thought. However, the neural mechanisms behind how mindfulness reduces ego and how this might impact romantic relationships has not yet been explored. This study proposes a multi-method investigation of romantic partners, with an emphasis on collecting ecologically-valid measures. Neuroimaging will be conducted on each member of the dyad to assess the degree to which partners are influenced by their own experiences (egocentricity bias) when trying to understand each other’s emotions. Individual differences in contemplative traits, such as mindfulness, empathy, and history of contemplative practice will be examined as predictors of egocentricity bias. Neural egocentricity bias will be used to predict individual outcomes, such as well-being and perceptions of relationship quality, as well as relationship outcomes, including first-person, introspective assessments of relationship interdependence and quality of partner communication (measured using naturalistic audio recordings). By capturing data from both members of a dyad, we will be able to assess not only the influence of empathy on one’s own experience but also on a close partner’s experience to help us understand the full impact of empathic processing.

Erin Maresh, PhD

University of Arizona


Erin Maresh is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona, working with Dr. Jessica Andrews-Hanna in the Neuroscience of Emotion and Thought Lab. Previously, she received her PhD in Clinical … MORE