What enables people to connect with one another, and how may people overcome barriers to social bonds? Empathy is one critical component of social bonds; however, self-focused motivational drives can cause empathic failures. Thus, having other-focused motivations that transcend self interest may promote empathic accuracy. The current study tested whether compassion practice, compared to a control activity, would predict greater empathic accuracy in response to hearing someone else’s emotional autobiographical story. Further, we tested whether self-transcendence, cultivated through compassion practice, would promote emotional resonance through neural resonance, or the degree to which people’s brains synchronize. Findings from this study will inform mechanisms of compassion effects as well as dynamic and context-dependent neural underpinnings of self-transcendence beyond the boundaries of an individual brain. For example, successful social bonding might depend on the brains’ ability to resonate with one another continuously through the fluctuating emotional inputs. Further, compassion practice might be an effective way to cultivate the brain’s capacity to sync with other brains during interaction.

Yoona Kang, PhD

University of Pennsylvania

Convening Faculty, Grantee, Reviewer

Yoona Kang’s research investigates psychological and neural mechanisms that support the development and changes in social cognition, emotions, and health outcomes. Her main research interests are in 1) linking social … MORE