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Recent studies based on J. Bowlby's (1969/1982) attachment theory reveal that both dispositional and experimentally enhanced attachment security facilitate cognitive openness and empathy, strengthen self-transcendent values, and foster tolerance of out-group members. Moreover, dispositional attachment security is associated with volunteering to help others in everyday life and to unselfish motives for volunteering. The present article reports 5 experiments, replicated in 2 countries (Israel and the United States), testing the hypothesis that increases in security (accomplished through both implicit and explicit priming techniques) foster compassion and altruistic behavior. The hypothesized effects were consistently obtained, and various alternative explanations were explored and ruled out. Dispositional attachment-related anxiety and avoidance adversely influenced compassion, personal distress, and altruistic behavior in theoretically predictable ways. As expected, attachment security provides a foundation for care-oriented feelings and caregiving behaviors, whereas various forms of insecurity suppress or interfere with compassionate caregiving.

Two studies examined the role short-term changes in adult attachment and mindfulness play in depression and general anxiety. Study 1, using a sample of college students (n = 121) who were not engaged in any clinical intervention, showed that changes in attachment anxiety and security, but not in avoidance, predicted changes in depressed and anxious mood. Study 2, using a college age clinical sample (n = 28), showed that changes in adult state attachment (avoidant, anxious, and secure) predicted reductions in depression, but that only changes in avoidant attachment, not anxious or secure attachment, predicted reductions in general anxiety. These findings suggest that reducing avoidant attachment is particularly important in successful therapy, but plays less of a role in natural fluctuations in depressed and anxious mood in non-clinical settings. Mindfulness predicted changes in depression and general anxiety in both the clinical and class studies. Mediation analyses showed that mindfulness partially mediated the association between adult attachment and depression and general anxiety. Implications for research and clinical practice are discussed.

<p>Contemplative practices are believed to alleviate psychological problems, cultivate prosocial behavior and promote self-awareness. In addition, psychological science has developed tools and models for understanding the mind and promoting well-being. Additional effort is needed to combine frameworks and techniques from these traditions to improve emotional experience and socioemotional behavior. An 8-week intensive (42 hr) meditation/emotion regulation training intervention was designed by experts in contemplative traditions and emotion science to reduce “destructive enactment of emotions” and enhance prosocial responses. Participants were 82 healthy female schoolteachers who were randomly assigned to a training group or a wait-list control group, and assessed preassessment, postassessment, and 5 months after training completion. Assessments included self-reports and experimental tasks to capture changes in emotional behavior. The training group reported reduced trait negative affect, rumination, depression, and anxiety, and increased trait positive affect and mindfulness compared to the control group. On a series of behavioral tasks, the training increased recognition of emotions in others (Micro-Expression Training Tool), protected trainees from some of the psychophysiological effects of an experimental threat to self (Trier Social Stress Test; TSST), appeared to activate cognitive networks associated with compassion (lexical decision procedure), and affected hostile behavior in the Marital Interaction Task. Most effects at postassessment that were examined at follow-up were maintained (excluding positive affect, TSST rumination, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia recovery). Findings suggest that increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behavior, and they support the benefit of integrating contemplative theories/practices with psychological models and methods of emotion regulation.</p>