PEACE Grant Recipients
The PEACE Grants support research on novel interdisciplinary approaches for investigating and nurturing wholesome mental qualities related to Prosociality, Empathy, Altruism, Compassion, and Ethics (PEACE). With this mechanism, Mind & Life will fund projects that advance our understanding of the mechanisms, implementation and outcomes of contemplative strategies to promote well-being and prosocial behavior in individuals and communities. In addition, we encourage the development of measures to rigorously assess these qualities in various real-world contexts.
2018 PEACE Grant Recipients:
Nava Levit-Binnun, PhD / Michal Reifen-Tagar, PhD
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel
Using a contemplative conflict resolution intervention to promote teachers’ and youth’ beneficial engagement in controversial discussions and intergroup encounters
Enabling respectful discussion between rival social viewpoints is currently one of humanity’s most important challenges. Powerful socio-psychological barriers, including negative intergroup perceptions, emotions, beliefs and biases, are known to play a crucial role in fueling social conflicts, by increasing intolerance and blame toward the outgroup. A mindfulness-based compassionate conflict engagement intervention, which combines mindfulness, empathy, communication skills and conflict resolution tools, will be tested in the context of volatile conversations and intergroup encounters. The intervention will be taught to Jewish and Arab teachers in 12 schools, prior to their students meeting each other. We hypothesize that both within the school context and during the encounters, the teachers that have participated in the intervention, and their students that have received from them those skills, will show more empathy and understanding toward the outgroup, will be better-able to hold productive dialogue on volatile issues and will exhibit more support for intergroup relations.
Brett Ford, PhD / Allison Troy, PhD
University of Toronto / Franklin & Marshall College
Can emotional acceptance promote political action? Leveraging contemplative science to promote positive social action
In today’s contentious political climate, we must identify pathways that promote positive social action. Collective political action (e.g., voting, volunteering), in particular, can powerfully shape society for the better – but what can individuals do to promote collective action? We propose that the contemplative strategy of emotional acceptance should allow individuals to harness the power of their emotional responses to political events and engage in productive forms of action. Three studies will test our hypotheses: Study 1 examines whether emotional acceptance predicts greater day-to-day motivation to engage in collective action in geographically, demographically, and politically-diverse U.S. adults. Study 2 examines whether emotional acceptance predicts greater collective action within liberal grassroots organizers. Study 3 examines whether a laboratory intervention can increase acceptance and, in turn, engagement in collective action. Together, these studies will significantly expand our scientific and practical understanding of how contemplative strategies can promote positive social change.
Yoona Kang, PhD / Emily Falk, PhD
University of Pennsylvania
Neurogenetic mechanisms of self-transcendence and purpose in life
Purpose in life refers to having a sense of goals, values and directions in life. Individuals whose life’s purpose is to benefit others beyond self-interests are thought to have self-transcendent purpose. Self-transcendent purpose is a trait as well as trainable skill: Some people are genetically predisposed to a tendency for compassion and prosociality, but others would need to be taught through intervention strategies like lovingkindness meditation or affirmation to cultivate self-transcendent purpose. We propose a study that examines gene-brain interactions during self-transcendence training and their influences on purpose-related outcomes. We will examine whether allelic variations of oxytocin and dopaminergic receptor genes, implicated in sensitivity to social and reward information respectively, may modulate the neural activity and effects of self-transcendence training. Examining the linkage between genes, brain, and purpose in life can inform careful tailoring of intervention strategies that can maximally benefit cultivation of self-transcendent mindsets and social actions.
Heidemarie Laurent, PhD / Larissa Duncan, PhD
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign /University of Wisconsin at Madison
Neurobehavioral effects of prenatal mindfulness training on maternal presence and compassionate love
A large body of research has shown that mindfulness training can improve individual well-being. However, effects on the prosocial qualities expressed in real-life interpersonal relationships are mixed, and the biobehavioral mechanisms underlying such potential effects remain largely unknown. We propose to address this gap by studying how prenatal mindfulness training tailored to focus on family relationships impacts the way mothers relate to their infants. In particular, we will examine differences between women who have completed the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) program during pregnancy and those who have not had such training on both neural and behavioral measures of (a) presence with and (b) compassionate love for their child. This research will help to further understanding of how mindfulness practice benefits not only the individual, but also interpersonal relationships and the well-being of subsequent generations.
Yoni Levy, PhD / Eran Halperin, PhD
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel
Combining immersive virtual environments and contemplative techniques to increase empathy and decrease anger in intergroup conflicts
Intergroup conflicts serve as the primary cause of wars and violence around the world. Such conflicts are often triggered and maintained by intense antisocial emotions (e.g., anger), and can potentially be attenuated by prosocial emotions (e.g., empathy). Discovering effective approaches to decrease anger and increase empathy, therefore, is of critical importance. Several contemplative techniques involve emotion regulation processes (e.g., cognitive reappraisal and perspective taking) that can effectively decrease anger, increase empathy, and may therefore contribute to conflict resolution. Yet, to employ these techniques, people must be motivated to do so and this is less likely to occur in conflictual contexts. Recent advances in virtual reality technologies may address this challenge by combining virtual reality with contemplative techniques. In two consecutive behavioral and neuroimaging studies, we will evaluate whether a pre-designed virtual experience can enhance the effects of contemplative techniques in conflictual contexts, and consequently promote positive intergroup relations.
Gloria Luong, PhD
Colorado State University
Testing a compassionate community actively living mindfulness (CCALM) intervention: elucidating individual and dyadic pathways to PEACE character virtues
The project will examine how Prosociality, Empathy, Altruism, Compassion, and Ethics (PEACE) character virtues may change with transitions to assisted living arrangements among older adults and their romantic partners. The project will employ a novel contemplative practices intervention program we developed called Compassionate Community Actively Living Mindfulness (CCALM) into the healthcare system. We will strategically focus on this population because older adults transitioning into assisted living and their spousal caregivers are at risk for greater perceived stress, depression, and health issues, which may undermine abilities to engage in PEACE behaviors. Additionally, by recruiting this sample, we will test how our CCALM intervention utilizing contemplative practices may promote PEACE character virtues in this distressed segment of the population, and the extent to which both partners show similar/diverging prospective changes in character virtues while dealing with a novel and enduring stressor in their lives.