A new study from Northeastern University and Harvard University researchers shows that meditation can improve compassion and do-gooder behavior. The new findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.
For the study, researchers tested study participants’ compassionate behavior after they underwent meditation sessions. Specifically, they did eight-week-long training sessions in two meditation types, after which they were tested to see if they would help someone (who was really an actor) in pain and using crutches while sitting in a fake waiting room.
Researchers found that only 15 percent of people who did not undergo meditation training helped the person with the crutches. But up to half of those who went through the training helped the person.
“The truly surprising aspect of this finding is that meditation made people willing to act virtuous — to help another who was suffering — even in the face of a norm not to do so,” study researcher David DeSteno, a psychological scientist at Northeastern University, said in a statement. “The fact that the other actors were ignoring the pain creates a ‘bystander-effect’ that normally tends to reduce helping. People often wonder ‘Why should I help someone if no one else is?’”
Recently, a study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed that meditation’s effect on brain processing of emotions may take place even when a person isn’t meditating.
Specifically, they found that the amygdala’s response to emotional stimuli is altered by meditation.