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.

 

2017 PEACE Grant Recipients:

Doris Chang

Doris Chang, PhD
New School for Social Research
Mindfulness-based Critical Consciousness Training for Teachers (MBCC-T): Development, pilot test, and comparison to two control groups

African American, Latino, Native American, and Southeast Asian students, demonstrate significant educational underachievement and poorer behavioral outcomes compared to their White and other Asian American peers. These disparities emerge as early as preschool, and are reflected in poorer achievement test scores, and higher rates of drop-out, suspension, and expulsion from school. While acknowledging that many educational disparities reflect structural inequalities, the proposed project targets the role of teachers–their cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to diverse students—and the potential impact they can have in reducing these disparities. Teacher education programs regularly incorporate training in culturally-responsive pedagogy; however many White teachers struggle to apply these skills due to feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and shame that often arise in interracial contexts. We propose to conduct a randomized controlled pilot trial of Mindfulness-Based Critical Consciousness training for Teachers (MBCC-T), which applies mindfulness interventions to address the cognitive, affective, and interpersonal barriers to the creation of equitable and inclusive learning environments. K-5 teachers will be randomized to receive MBCC-T, critical consciousness training alone, or mindfulness training alone. Changes in multicultural teaching competence, implicit and explicit racial attitudes, classroom climate, mindfulness, self-compassion, and burnout will be tracked pre- and post-intervention, and 4-months later.

 

James Coan

James Coan, PhD
University of Virginia
Sustainable Compassion Training’s effects on neural threat and social support

Social support is empirically linked to health and well-being, but the mechanisms of this link remain speculative along with target interventions that maximize social support during stressful times. Knowledge of these mechanisms and interventions is needed for a full understanding of the receipt and provision of care, particularly among those working in high stress environments and at risk for burnout. The proposed research will elucidate 1) the basic mechanisms of care received, care given, and empathy, 2) the role these mechanisms play in supportive behavior, 3) the role these mechanisms may play in stress, and 4) the specific impact of a targeted compassion-based contemplative practice on all of the above. The Sustainable Compassion Training (SCT) model leverages a set of contemplative practices to focus on what it is like to see and love, and to be seen and loved, unconditionally, while cultivating a decision to engage in emotional support without becoming emotionally overwhelmed by empathic concern. Specifically, we will, across two occasions of measurement among a normative sample of 160 college-aged students, evaluate the impact of SCT, in comparison to Mindfulness Training (MT).

 

Annemarie Gockel
Peggy O’Neill

Annemarie Gockel, PhD and Peggy O’Neill, PhD
Smith College
From barriers to bridges: Investigating contemplative approaches to social justice

Fostering meaningful dialogue about social inequities is a key contemporary social challenge. Despite participants’ best intentions, all too often conversations about social inequities are as likely to reinforce stereotypes and foster acrimony, as they are to facilitate mutual understanding and promote progress towards social justice. We have developed a training program called the Critical Conversations Project that brings university students together to have facilitated dialogues about social inequity. Drawing on contemplative practices, the program provides students with training in reflecting on power differentials as they play themselves out in our day to day experiences. Students also receive explicit training and support in managing the stress involved in these conversations and taking care of themselves while remaining engaged in the exchange. Students will be randomly assigned to diverse course formats to see which formats best promote increased awareness of social oppression and increased prosocial behavior.

 

Jennifer Mascaro
Charles Raison

Jennifer Mascaro, PhD and Charles Raison, PhD

Emory University
CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) at the hospital bedside

 

Although hospital chaplains play a critical role in delivering emotional and spiritual care to a broad range of both religious and non-religious patients, there is remarkably little research on the best-practices of chaplaincy training or “active ingredients” of chaplain spiritual consults. CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) is a secularized compassion meditation program that improves empathic accuracy and enhances well-being, and it may be an ideal addition to both chaplain training programs and to the spiritual consults provided by hospital chaplains. Here we describe a program of research to evaluate the impact of CBCT on both chaplain residents and their subsequent clinical spiritual consults. First, we will examine whether CBCT enhances chaplain empathic accuracy and self-reported compassion and protects against burn-out. We will also use audio recordings of chaplain-patient interactions and patient chart reviews to systematically examine the elements in compassion-informed spiritual care that impact health outcomes. The proposed study will examine whether CBCT is an effective addition to spiritual healthcare and provide first-of-its-kind data on the linguistic components of chaplain intervention, which will contribute to a deeper understanding of the skillful means by which the wisdom of compassion may be translated to reduce suffering and enhance well-being.