Compassion training alters altruism and neural responses to suffering
Format: Journal Article
Sources ID: 23218
Zotero Collections: Contexts of Contemplation Project
Compassion is a key motivator of altruistic behavior, but little is known about individuals’ capacity to cultivate compassion through training. We examined whether compassion may be systematically trained by testing whether (i) short-term compassion training increases altruistic behavior, and (ii) individual differences in altruism are associated with training-induced changes in neural responses to suffering. In healthy young adults, we found that compassion training increased altruistic redistribution of funds to a victim encountered outside of the training context. Furthermore, greater altruistic behavior after compassion training was associated with altered activation in regions implicated in social cognition and emotion regulation, including the inferior parietal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and DLPFC connectivity with the nucleus accumbens. These results suggest that compassion can be cultivated with training, where greater altruistic behavior may emerge from increased engagement in neural systems implicated in understanding the suffering of others, executive and emotional control, and reward processing.