Although meditation is increasingly accepted as having personal benefits, less is known about the broader impact of meditation on social and intergroup relations. We tested the effect of lovingkindness meditation training on improving implicit attitudes toward members of 2 stigmatized social outgroups: Blacks and homeless people. Healthy non-Black, nonhomeless adults ( N = 101) were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 conditions: 6-week lovingkindness practice, 6-week lovingkindness discussion (a closely matched active control), or waitlist control. Decreases in implicit bias against stigmatized outgroups (as measured by Implicit Association Test) were observed only in the lovingkindness practice condition. Reduced psychological stress mediated the effect of lovingkindness practice on implicit bias against homeless people, but it did not mediate the reduced bias against Black people. These results suggest that lovingkindness meditation can improve automatically activated, implicit attitudes toward stigmatized social groups and that this effect occurs through distinctive mechanisms for different stigmatized social groups.
The nature of the affective deficit that characterizes social anhedonia is not well understood. Emotionally evocative visual stimuli were presented to undergraduates identified as anhedonic or normal, based on their scores on the revised Social Anhedonia Scale. The affective stimuli were chosen to elicit positive and negative emotion; a subset of slides were specifically chosen to include social-interpersonal content. In the acoustic startle paradigm, participants were administered startle probes (50-ms 95 dB white noise bursts) while viewing images from the International Affective Picture System. Socially anhedonic individuals did not differ from normally hedonic individuals in terms of their physiological response to the stimuli, regardless of the nature of the content of the stimuli. However, on the self-report measures of trait affectivity, the socially anhedonic individuals reported significantly lower levels of positive affect and higher levels of negative affect. These findings suggest that the affective deficits reported by socially anhedonic individuals are not global in nature.
Oxytocin, a peptide that functions as both a hormone and neurotransmitter, has broad influences on social and emotional processing throughout the body and the brain. In this study, we tested how a polymorphism (rs53576) of the oxytocin receptor relates to two key social processes related to oxytocin: empathy and stress reactivity. Compared with individuals homozygous for the G allele of rs53576 (GG), individuals with one or two copies of the A allele (AG/AA) exhibited lower behavioral and dispositional empathy, as measured by the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” Test and an other-oriented empathy scale. Furthermore, AA/AG individuals displayed higher physiological and dispositional stress reactivity than GG individuals, as determined by heart rate response during a startle anticipation task and an affective reactivity scale. Our results provide evidence of how a naturally occurring genetic variation of the oxytocin receptor relates to both empathy and stress profiles.
Parenting preschoolers can be a challenging endeavor. Yet anecdotal observations indicate that parents who are more mindful may have greater ease in contending with the emotional demands of parenting than parents who are less mindful. Therefore, we hypothesized that parenting effort, defined as the energy involved in deciding on the most effective way to respond to a preschooler, would be negatively associated with mothers’ mindfulness. In this study, a new parenting effort scale and an established mindfulness scale were distributed to 50 mothers of preschoolers. Using exploratory factor analysis, the factor structure of the new parenting effort scale was examined and the scale was refined. Bivariate correlations were then conducted on this new Parenting Effort—Preschool scale and the established mindfulness scale. Results confirmed the hypothesis that a negative correlation exists between these two variables. Implications are that mindfulness practices may have the potential to alleviate some of the challenges of parenting preschoolers.
The purpose of this study was to examine pathways in a model which proposed associations among parent mindfulness, parent depressive symptoms, two types of parenting, and child problem behavior. Participants' data were from the baseline assessment of a NIMH-sponsored family-group cognitive-behavioral intervention program for the prevention of child and adolescent depression (Compas et al., 2009). Participants consisted of 145 mothers and 17 fathers (mean age = 41.89 yrs, SD = 7.73) with a history of depression and 211 children (106 males) (mean age = 11.49 yrs, SD = 2.00). Analyses showed that (a) positive parenting appears to play a significant role in helping explain how parent depressive symptoms relate to child externalizing problems and (b) mindfulness is related to child internalizing and externalizing problems; however, the intervening constructs examined did not appear to help explain the mindfulness-child problem behavior associations. Suggestions for future research on parent mindfulness and child problem outcome are described.
This review provides an overview of the field of social neuroscience from a European perspective and focuses mainly on outlining research topics which originated in European laboratories. After a brief historical synopsis of the emergence of this young field, the most relevant findings related to the investigation of the neural networks underlying our capacity to understand the minds of others are summarized. More specifically, three routes of social cognition are distinguished: (1) our capacity to mentalize, or to infer intentions and beliefs of others, (2) our capacity to mimic and understand other's motor actions, and (3) our capacity to empathize, or to share and understand the feelings of others. More recent studies focusing on social emotions such as love, compassion, revenge or our sense of fairness will be discussed linking the field of social neuroscience to the even younger field of neuroeconomics, with the focus on the study of human social interactions using game theoretical paradigms. Finally, the use of a multi-method and multi-disciplinary research approach combining genetic, pharmacological, computational and developmental aspects is advocated and future directions for the study of interactive minds are discussed.
Employing data from a mailed survey of a sample of ecologically and spiritually aware respondents (N = 829), the study tests the hypothesized relationship between ecologically sustainable behavior (ESB) and subjective well-being (SWB). The proposed link between ESB and SWB is the spiritual practice of mindfulness meditation (MM). In multiple regression equations ESB and MM independently explain statistically significant amounts of variance in SWB, indicating, for at least the study's sample, that there can be a relationship between personal and planetary well-being. The inter-relationships among SWB, ESB and MM suggest that for specific segments of the general population (e.g., the spiritually inclined) there may not necessarily be an insurmountable conflict between an environmentally responsible lifestyle and personal quality of life. The research reported here also points to the potential for meditative/mindful experiences to play a prominent role in the explanation of variance in SWB, a direction in QoL studies recently highlighted by several researchers (Layard 2005, pp. 189–192; Nettle 2005, pp. 153–160; Haidt 2006).
The aim of this article is to investigate how a contemplative orientation to teaching may facilitate wholeness for teachers and students through a portrait of Diana, a kindergarten teacher working in a contemplative elementary school. The portrait, one of three portraits from a larger study, illustrates three central features of contemplative teaching: compassion, integrity, and mindful awareness. These three central features develop internally within individual teachers and are animated and influenced externally through their role as teachers. The context of their teaching, relationships with students, parents, and colleagues, and pedagogical choices, in turn influence the three central features. The emphasis on wholeness, unity, and integration of a contemplative orientation to teaching moves us toward a view of teachers and students as beings with not only minds and heads but also hearts and bodies. Contemplative teaching offers educational communities a path toward transformational, holistic, and integrative learning and teaching.
<p>Early childhood is marked by substantial development in the self-regulatory skills supporting school readiness and socioemotional competence. Evidence from developmental social cognitive neuroscience suggests that these skills develop as a function of changes in a dynamic interaction between more top-down (controlled) regulatory processes and more bottom-up (automatic) influences on behavior. Mindfulness training—using age-appropriate activities to exercise children's reflection on their moment-to-moment experiences—may support the development of self-regulation by targeting top-down processes while lessening bottom-up influences (such as anxiety, stress, curiosity) to create conditions conducive to reflection, both during problem solving and in more playful, exploratory ways.</p>
This article examines how power influences behavior. Elevated power is associated with increased rewards and freedom and thereby activates approach-related tendencies. Reduced power is associated with increased threat, punishment, and social constraint and thereby activates inhibition-related tendencies. The authors derive predictions from recent theorizing about approach and inhibition and review relevant evidence. Specifically, power is associated with (a) positive affect, (b) attention to rewards, (c) automatic information processing, and (d) disinhibited behavior. In contrast, reduced power is associated with (a) negative affect; (b) attention to threat, punishment, others' interests, and those features of the self that are relevant to others' goals; (c) controlled information processing; and (d) inhibited social behavior. The potential moderators and consequences of these power-related behavioral patterns are discussed.
Responses to individuals who suffer are a foundation of cooperative communities. On the basis of the approach/inhibition theory of power (Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003), we hypothesized that elevated social power is associated with diminished reciprocal emotional responses to another person's suffering (feeling distress at another person's distress) and with diminished complementary emotion (e.g., compassion). In face-to-face conversations, participants disclosed experiences that had caused them suffering. As predicted, participants with a higher sense of power experienced less distress and less compassion and exhibited greater autonomic emotion regulation when confronted with another participant's suffering. Additional analyses revealed that these findings could not be attributed to power-related differences in baseline emotion or decoding accuracy, but were likely shaped by power-related differences in the motivation to affiliate. Implications for theorizing about power and the social functions of emotions are discussed.
This report is a summary of the Contemplative Net Project’s findings. The report begins by reviewing the historical and cultural context for the current interest in meditation and other contemplative practices. The secular application of these practices is then surveyed in five professional fields: Business and Organizational Development, Medicine and Healthcare, Education and Youth Work, Law and Government, and Prison Work. Through the use of stories, profiles, and quotes from research interviews, the report offers an indepth, narrative look at how exposure to meditation and other practices has impacted individuals, workplaces, and society at large.
We examined a non-specific or relationship variable as well as a specific or technical variable (i.e. homework compliance) and their prediction of cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) outcome for children with anxiety disorders. Therapist ratings of the therapeutic relationship (TR), but not homework compliance (HC) predicted CBT outcome at posttreatment (n = 138) and at 1-year follow-up (n = 121) for anxious children (aged 9 to 13 years). Findings from this study suggest the therapeutic relationship is a hardy non-specific factor in CBT of anxious children. Implications for the treatment of children with anxiety disorders using CBT and recommendations for research are offered.
Individuals with fragile X syndrome (FXS) commonly display characteristics of social anxiety, including gaze aversion, increased time to initiate social interaction, and difficulty forming meaningful peer relationships. While neural correlates of face processing, an important component of social interaction, are altered in FXS, studies have not examined whether social anxiety in this population is related to higher cognitive processes, such as memory. This study aimed to determine whether the neural circuitry involved in face encoding was disrupted in individuals with FXS, and whether brain activity during face encoding was related to levels of social anxiety. A group of 11 individuals with FXS (5 M) and 11 age- and gender-matched control participants underwent fMRI scanning while performing a face encoding task with online eye-tracking. Results indicate that compared to the control group, individuals with FXS exhibited decreased activation of prefrontal regions associated with complex social cognition, including the medial and superior frontal cortex, during successful face encoding. Further, the FXS and control groups showed significantly different relationships between measures of social anxiety (including gaze-fixation) and brain activity during face encoding. These data indicate that social anxiety in FXS may be related to the inability to successfully recruit higher level social cognition regions during the initial phases of memory formation.
Interoception refers to the conscious perception of body signals. Mindfulness is a meditation practice that encourages individuals to focus on their internal experiences such as bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions. In this study, we selected a behavioral measure of interoceptive sensitivity (heartbeat detection task, HBD) to compare the effect of meditation practice on interoceptive sensitivity among long term practitioners (LTP), short term meditators (STM, subjects that completed a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program) and controls (non-meditators). All participants were examined with a battery of different tasks including mood state, executive function and social cognition tests (emotion recognition, empathy and theory of mind). Findings Compared to controls, both meditators? groups showed lower levels of anxiety and depression, but no improvement in executive function or social cognition performance was observed (except for lower scores compared to controls only in the personal distress dimension of empathy). More importantly, meditators? performance did not differ from that of nonmeditators regarding cardiac interoceptive sensitivity. Conclusion Results suggest no influence of meditation practice in cardiac interoception and in most related social cognition measures. These negative results could be partially due to the fact that awareness of heartbeat sensations is not emphasized during mindfulness/vipassana meditation and may not be the best index of the awareness supported by the practice of meditation.
The present studies examined how observers infer moral attributes and beliefs from nonverbal pride displays. Pride is a self-focused positive emotion triggered by appraisals of the self's success, status, and competence. We hypothesized that when a target emits nonverbal cues of pride, he or she will be viewed by observers as higher in self-interest and therefore more likely to endorse ideologies that would benefit the self-specifically, merit-based resource distributions (meritocracy) as opposed to equality-based resource distributions (egalitarianism). Across studies, experimentally manipulated pride displays (Studies 1 and 3) and naturally occurring expressions of pride (Study 4) led observers to infer heightened support for meritocracy as opposed to egalitarianism. Analyses also revealed that people intuitively associate higher self-interest with enhanced support for meritocracy as opposed to egalitarianism (Study 2), and this association mediates the pathway from pride displays to inferences of heightened support for meritocracy and reduced support for egalitarianism (Studies 3 and 4). Across studies, we compare pride to expressions of joy or no emotion and demonstrate these effects using thin slices as well as static images.
<p>ABSTRACT: The 1995 publication of Goleman's Emotional Intelligence triggered a revolution in mental health promotion. Goleman's examination of Gardner's work on multiple intelligences and current brain research, and review of successful programs that promoted emotional health, revealed a common objective among those working to prevent specific problem behaviors: producing knowledgeable, responsible, nonviolent, and caring individuals. Advances in research and field experiences confirm that school-based programs that promote social and emotional learning (SEL) in children can be powerful in accomplishing these goals. This article reviews the work of the Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), its guidelines for promoting mental health in children and youth based on SEL, key principles, and examples of exemplary programs.</p>
Temperamentally anxious individuals can be identified in childhood and are at risk to develop anxiety and depressive disorders. In addition, these individuals tend to have extreme asymmetric right prefrontal brain activity. Although common and clinically important, little is known about the pathophysiology of anxious temperament. Regardless, indirect evidence from rodent studies and difficult to interpret primate studies is used to support the hypothesis that the amygdala plays a central role. In previous studies using rhesus monkeys, we characterized an anxious temperament endophenotype that is associated with excessive anxiety and fear-related responses and increased electrical activity in right frontal brain regions. To examine the role of the amygdala in mediating this endophenotype and other fearful responses, we prepared monkeys with selective fiber sparing ibotenic acid lesions of the amygdala. Unconditioned trait-like anxiety-fear responses remained intact in monkeys with >95% bilateral amygdala destruction. In addition, the lesions did not affect EEG frontal asymmetry. However, acute unconditioned fear responses, such as those elicited by exposure to a snake and to an unfamiliar threatening conspecific were blunted in monkeys with >70% lesions. These findings demonstrate that the primate amygdala is involved in mediating some acute unconditioned fear responses but challenge the notion that the amygdala is the key structure underlying the dispositional behavioral and physiological characteristics of anxious temperament.
The authors propose a model of the prosocial classroom that highlights the importance of teachers’ social and emotional competence (SEC) and well-being in the development and maintenance of supportive teacher–student relationships, effective classroom management, and successful social and emotional learning program implementation. This model proposes that these factors contribute to creating a classroom climate that is more conducive to learning and that promotes positive developmental outcomes among students. Furthermore, this article reviews current research suggesting a relationship between SEC and teacher burnout and reviews intervention efforts to support teachers’ SEC through stress reduction and mindfulness programs. Finally, the authors propose a research agenda to address the potential efficacy of intervention strategies designed to promote teacher SEC and improved learning outcomes for students.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children (MBCT-C) is a manualized group psychotherapy for children ages 9–13 years old, which was developed specifically to increase social-emotional resiliency through the enhancement of mindful attention. Program development is described along with results of the initial randomized controlled trial. We tested the hypotheses that children randomized to participate in MBCT-C would show greater reductions in (a) attention problems, (b) anxiety symptoms, and (c) behavior problems than wait-listed age and gender-matched controls. Participants were boys and girls aged 9–13 (N = 25), mostly from low-income, inner-city households. Twenty-one of 25 children were ethnic minorities. A randomized cross-lagged design provided a wait-listed control group, a second trial of MBCT-C, and a 3-month follow-up of children who completed the first trial. Measures included the Child Behavior Checklist, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children, and Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children. Participants who completed the program showed fewer attention problems than wait-listed controls and those improvements were maintained at three months following the intervention [F (1, 1, 18) = 5.965, p = .025, Cohen’s d = .42]. A strong relationship was found between attention problems and behavior problems (r = .678, p < .01). Reductions in attention problems accounted for 46% of the variance of changes in behavior problems, although attention changes proved to be a non-significant mediator of behavior problems (p = .053). Significant reductions in anxiety symptoms and behavior problems were found for those children who reported clinically elevated levels of anxiety at pretest (n = 6). Results show that MBCT-C is a promising intervention for attention and behavior problems, and may reduce childhood anxiety symptoms.
Although once considered disruptive, self-conscious emotions are now theorized to be fundamentally involved in the regulation of social behavior. The present study examined the social regulation function of self-conscious emotions by comparing healthy participants with a neuropsychological population--patients with orbitofrontal lesions--characterized by selective regulatory deficits. Orbitofrontal patients and healthy controls participated in a series of tasks designed to assess their social regulation and self-conscious emotions. Another task assessed the ability to infer others' emotional states, an appraisal process involved in self-conscious emotion. Consistent with the theory that self-conscious emotions are important for regulating social behavior, the findings show that deficient behavioral regulation is associated with inappropriate self-conscious emotions that reinforce maladaptive behavior. Additionally, deficient behavioral regulation is associated with impairments in interpreting the self-conscious emotions of others.
Although several studies have examined anterior asymmetric brain electrical activity and cortisol in infants, children, and adults, the direct association between asymmetry and cortisol has not systematically been reported. In nonhuman primates, greater relative right anterior activation has been associated with higher cortisol levels. The current study examines the relation between frontal electroencephalographic (EEG) asymmetry and cortisol (basal and reactive) and withdrawal-related behaviors (fear and sadness) in 6-month-old infants. As predicted, the authors found that higher basal and reactive cortisol levels were associated with extreme right EEG asymmetry. EEG during the withdrawal-negative affect task was associated with fear and sadness behaviors. Results are interpreted in the context of the previous primate work, and some putative mechanisms are discussed.
Functional neuroimaging investigations in the fields of social neuroscience and neuroeconomics indicate that the anterior insular cortex (AI) is consistently involved in empathy, compassion, and interpersonal phenomena such as fairness and cooperation. These findings suggest that AI plays an important role in social emotions, hereby defined as affective states that arise when we interact with other people and that depend on the social context. After we link the role of AI in social emotions to interoceptive awareness and the representation of current global emotional states, we will present a model suggesting that AI is not only involved in representing current states, but also in predicting emotional states relevant to the self and others. This model also proposes that AI enables us to learn about emotional states as well as about the uncertainty attached to events, and implies that AI plays a dominant role in decision making in complex and uncertain environments. Our review further highlights that dorsal and ventro-central, as well as anterior and posterior subdivisions of AI potentially subserve different functions and guide different aspects of behavioral regulation. We conclude with a section summarizing different routes to understanding other people’s actions, feelings and thoughts, emphasizing the notion that the predominant role of AI involves understanding others’ feeling and bodily states rather than their action intentions or abstract beliefs.