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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.