Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

   Home    Conference   Magazine   Services   Empathy-Tent   Newsletter   Facebook    Youtube   Contact   Search

Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?

Projects
  Empathy Circles
    Restorative Empathy Circles
  Conference
  Magazine
  Curriculum

  Expert Interviews
  Empathizing with Edwin
  How to Build?

  Emergency Response
  Teams
  Peace in Oakland
  Cards
   Empathy Party
 

Obama Empathy Videos
    All Video Clips
    Text of Speech
es
    Senate Debate

Video Projects

    Ahimsa
   Tikkun & NSP
    Netroots
    Peace Alliance
    Empathy Educators
    Sunrise Center Trainers
    Compassionate Politics
    Johannes Mehserle Rally
    Oscar Grant Oakland Protest
    NVC Santa Cruz
    Rita Marie Johnson
    Huston Smith
    New Living Expo
    Israel in Gardens
    Jewish Palestinian Dialogue
    Republican Party Convention
    Tea Party Rally
    Empathy Corner
    OFA SF CA
    UC Berkeley Nonviolence
    Hope Tank
    Existential Humanists EHI
    Engaging the Other
    Restorative Circles
    Mediation
    Bay NVC Trainers
  
 Healthcare Cafe
    2009-06-25 -Cafe Video
    Miscellaneous

    TAOLB Arts

References

 
  Articles
      
Supreme Court & Justice
    Bibliography
    Books
    Conferences
    Definitions
    Experts
(100+)
   
FAQ
    History
    Languages
    Metaphors
    Mirror-Neurons
    Organizations
   
Other Links

    Questions
    Quotations
    Empathy Tests
    Values
    Videos About Empathy
 
 
Causes
    Animals

    Children
    LGBT
    Nature
    Empaths
    Curriculum
    

 

Culture of Empathy Builder:  Jennifer S. Mascaro

Jennifer Mascaro and Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion

Jenny Mascaro wrote her PH.D dissertation at Emery University on "A Longitudinal Investigation of Empathic Behavior and Neural Activity and Their Modulation by Compassion Meditation."  She studied the effectiveness of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, which was developed by Geshe Lobsang Negi at Emory, on deepening empathy. Jenny says, "My interests center on the study of emotion and social cognition, particularly those emotions related to prosocial behavior.  I'm currently using various neuroimaging modalities including functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging to explore the neurobiology related to empathy and compassion." 

 

Jenny and Edwin held a wide ranging discussion about her study and the nature of empathy and compassion.

Sub Conference: Science


 

 

Jennifer Mascaro & Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion

 

 

Transcripts

  • 00:00 Introduction

  • (transcription pending)

  • (Video Transcriptions: If you would like to take empathic action and create a transcription of this video, check the volunteers page.  The transcriptions will make it easier for other viewers to quickly see the content of this video.)

 

2012-09-29 - Study: Compassion meditation enhances empathic accuracy and related neural activity.
The ability to accurately infer others' mental states from facial expressions is important for optimal social functioning and is fundamentally impaired in social cognitive disorders such as autism. While pharmacologic interventions have shown promise for enhancing empathic accuracy, little is known about the effects of behavioral interventions on empathic accuracy and related brain activity. This study employed a randomized, controlled and longitudinal design to investigate the effect of a secularized analytical compassion meditation program, cognitive-based compassion training (CBCT), on empathic accuracy.

 

Twenty-one healthy participants received functional MRI scans while completing an empathic accuracy task, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), both prior to and after completion of either CBCT or a health discussion control group. Upon completion of the study interventions, participants randomized to CBCT and were significantly more likely than control subjects to have increased scores on the RMET and increased neural activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC). 



Dissertation: A Longitudinal Investigation of Empathic Behavior and Neural Activity and Their Modulation by Compassion Meditation

While meditation is increasingly incorporated into clinical treatments for a variety of ailments and is offered to the public with claims of increasing overall health and well-being, there are sizeable gaps in our understanding of the outcomes related to its practice.

  • First, very little is known about how meditation affects social cognition and related neural processes.

  • Second, much of the current research on meditation is fraught with flawed experimental designs and incomplete assessments of practitioners, such that many have called into question any conclusions regarding the effects of meditation practices.

  • Third, research on meditation has primarily been conducted under the assumption that all practitioners meditate for a common reason and with common goals, and that meditation acts the same way in all practitioners.

This dissertation was designed to address the
aforementioned gaps. More specifically, we aimed to assess 

  • (1) the social cognitive, neurobiological and behavioral changes related to compassion meditation,

  •  (2) the mechanisms by which neurobiological change is translated into outcomes in
    practitioners, and

  • (3) the nuanced ways in which particular individuals adopt the meditation practice and attain effects.

 

Cognitive-Based Compassion Training (CBCT)  -  Tibet.Emory.Edu

"There are doubtless many methods one could employ to enhance compassion beyond the biological level to an impartial altruism, and in fact many religious traditions contain methods for such cultivation. In our studies, we use a protocol for the cultivation of compassion developed by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, drawn from the lojong tradition of Tibetan Buddhism but rendered into secular form for use by individuals of any, or no, religious inclination. The term lojong means "mind training" or "thought transformation" and refers to a systematic practice of gradually training the mind in compassion until altruism becomes spontaneous."

 

 

 August 8, 2010 - Compassion meditation enhances empathic accuracy and related neural activity
Jennifer S. Mascaro, James K. Rilling, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Charles L. Raison

"The ability to accurately infer others’ mental states from facial expressions is important for optimal social functioning and is fundamentally impaired in social cognitive disorders such as autism. While pharmacologic interventions have shown promise for enhancing empathic accuracy, little is known about the effects of behavioral interventions on empathic accuracy and related brain activity. This study employed a randomized, controlled and longitudinal design to investigate the effect of a secularized analytical compassion meditation program, cognitive-based compassion training (CBCT), on empathic accuracy.

 

Twenty-one healthy participants received functional MRI scans while completing an empathic accuracy task, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), both prior to and after completion of either CBCT or a health discussion control group. Upon completion of the study interventions, participants randomized to CBCT and were significantly more likely than control subjects to have increased scores on the RMET and increased neural activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC). Moreover, changes in dmPFC and IFG activity from baseline to the post-intervention assessment were associated with changes in empathic accuracy. These findings suggest that CBCT may hold promise as a behavioral intervention for enhancing empathic accuracy and the neurobiology supporting it."

 


2012-10-04 - Compassion meditation may boost neural basis of empathy, Emory study finds
"A compassion-based meditation program can significantly improve a person's ability to read the facial expressions of others, finds a study published by Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. This boost in empathic accuracy was detected through both behavioral testing of the study participants and through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of their brain activity.

"It's an intriguing result, suggesting that a behavioral intervention could enhance a key aspect of empathy," says lead author Jennifer Mascaro, a post-doctoral fellow in anthropology at Emory University. "Previous research has shown that both children and adults who are better at reading the emotional expressions of others have better relationships." ..
 

When most people think of meditation, they think of a style known as "mindfulness," in which practitioners seek to improve their ability to concentrate and to be non-judgmentally aware of their thoughts and feelings. While CBCT includes these mindfulness elements, the practice focuses more specifically on training people to analyze and reinterpret their relationships with others. "

 

 

2012-10-07 - Meditation Could Improve Empathy, Study Suggests  - huffingtonpost.com
"Meditation could help people to be more empathetic, according to a small new study from Emory University. The research, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, showed that a meditation program called Cognitively-Based Compassion Training was able to improve people's ability to read emotional expressions on others' faces. Researchers said the meditation program is based on ancient Buddhist practices, but this particular program was secular. It included mindfulness techniques, but mainly involved training people to think about their relationships with other people."