Jennifer Mascaro, Assistant Professor at Emory University

In this month’s Fellow Spotlight we are pleased to share the work of Jennifer Mascaro, Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at Emory University. She will be presenting her work at the 2020 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute.

Jennifer’s research interests center on human social cognition and the biology of interconnection, as well as the variation of these elements across individuals and over time. A biological anthropologist by training, Jennifer weaves together multiple research methodologies, including neuroimaging (both anatomical and functional MRI), experience sampling, and hormonal and genetic assays to explore how contemplative practices affect prosocial emotions and behaviors, and how these in turn impact health. Ever interdisciplinary, Jennifer’s research also interfaces with the fields of medicine, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, religion, and social, clinical, and cognitive psychology in order to examine interventions that enhance social connectivity, and in so doing, impact well-being.

Jennifer has shared with Mind & Life her deep awe of clinicians and healers who are able to be with others in the inevitable moments of fear, sadness, and loss of control that come with trauma, illness, aging, and pain. It is this awe that has motivated her to research the skillful means by which the wisdom of compassion may be applied to reduce suffering and enhance well-being. Specifically, her research has evaluated compassion meditation interventions and compassion-informed spiritual healthcare delivered by hospital chaplains in order to understand how compassion is conveyed and experienced to enhance patient and provider well-being.

Related to this work, Jennifer received a Mind & Life PEACE Grant in 2017 to study the impact of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) on residents of hospital chaplaincy programs and their subsequent clinical-spiritual consults. Preliminary data from this study, which examined causes of hospital distress, have resulted in a 76-page manual (adapted from CBCT) that details a new compassion-centered approach to chaplaincy, called the Compassion-Centered Spiritual Health Intervention (CCSHI).

Jennifer will present her work at the 2020 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute, which will be focused on the theme of the development of prosocial qualities like kindness and compassion across the human lifespan.

The Fellow Spotlight is a monthly segment that highlights the contributions of Mind & Life Fellows to our shared mission, featuring a different Fellow each month.