- Neural Correlates of Compassion in Buddhist Adepts and Novices
- Is it Better to Give or to Receive? A Neuroeconomic Research
- Does Meditation Increase Compassion? A Psychological Research Study
- Investigating the Behavioral and Neural Mechanisms of Compassion Training
- Convergences Between Heroism, Compassion, and Altruism
- Neural Network of Social Compassion and Nurturing: Optical Deconstruction of Altruistic Behavior
- Creating a Partner – What Makes People Under Conflict Adopt a Peaceful Position? Research on Heroism and Transformational Processes Among Former Gang Members Who Now Engage in Prosocial Behaviors.
- A Multimodal Study of the Neural Correlates of Experiencing Admiration and Compassion
- Compassion in the Political Arena
1. Neural Correlates of Compassion in Buddhist Adepts and Novices
Led by noted Stanford psychologist and neuroscientist Brian Knutson, PhD, in collaboration with Thupten Jinpa, PhD
2. Is It Better To Give Or To Receive? A Neuroeconomic Research
This research is being undertaken by neuroeconomists William Harbaugh, PhD, of the University of Oregon, and Jim Andreoni, PhD, of UC San Diego, working with James Doty, MD
This experiment is designed to determine whether recipients of charity care about how they became eligible for the aid and how much the aid to them costs others. College students who have GPAs above 3.0 and receive financial aid will be subjects in this research. Preliminary behavioral studies show that these students are more likely to accept aid when they are qualified with respect to GPA or need; they prefer merit aid to need aid; and they are less likely to accept aid when it reduces what is available for others.
3. Does Meditation Increase Compassion? A Psychological Research Study
In previous studies, Stanford psychologist Jeanne Tsai, PhD, and her team found that subjects who took mindfulness meditation training showed increased compassionate behavior compared to a control group that did not receive any training, but to the same degree as a group that took an improvisational theater class.
Before, midway through, and at the end of the course, participants will complete questionnaires that measure their personality, affect (actual and ideal), empathic concern, and ability to take another person’s perspective. At the end, they will also be evaluated for compassion, using specially devised implicit measurements to test empathy levels and inclinations to charitable giving.
4. Investigating the Behavioral and Neural Mechanisms of Compassion Training
Stanford psychology professor James Gross, PhD, Stanford research scientist Philippe Goldin, PhD, and James Doty, MD
5. Convergences between Heroism, Compassion, and Altruism
Stanford professor emeritus of psychology Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, and his team, in collaboration with James Doty, MD
One survey will be used to analyze perceptions people have of the nature of various actions that qualify as altruistic and or heroic when practiced by various people, such as police, firefighters, military, or ordinary citizens. In another survey, the team has identified those who believe that they have acted heroically and in what manner. A content analysis of those acts will establish ordinary people’s definition of heroism by specific behaviors.
Subjects will be placed into the roles of coaches giving increasingly hostile comments to a performer, ostensibly to help improve his performance. At some point, the performer will seem to personally suffer from the hostile comments and begin to cry. In a companion study, new subjects will be asked to ostensibly help the researchers recruit others for the coaching study by making a videotape encouraging them to sign on. In their preparation, subjects will view a video from the prior study showing the student-performer breaking down from the hostile feedback. Compliers and defiants will be given an opportunity to support or publicly challenge the research. A subsequent debriefing will serve as a moral education opportunity, with compliers, defiants, and whistleblowers separately discussing what should be learned from this experience to guide future behaviors.
6. Neural Networks of Social Compassion and Nurturing: Optical Deconstruction of Altruistic Behavior
Stanford psychiatrist and bioengineer Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD has invented a new field called optogenetics, combining optics and genetics to probe mammalian neural circuits at the high speeds (millisecond-timescale) needed to understand brain information processing.
7. Creating a Partner – What Makes People Under Conflict Adopt a Peaceful Position? Research on Heroism and Transformational Processes Among Former Gang Members Who Now Engage in Prosocial Behaviors
Stanford professor emeritus of psychology Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, and his team, in collaboration with Yotam Heineberg, PhD (project leader in the United States), and Rony Berger, PhD (who is situated in Israel), are conducting research on heroic transformational processes from violence to peace.
This exploration will be done using in-depth narrative interviews (approximately four hours per interview, with 30 participants) tracing early life history and family of origin, the process of transformation from being a gang member to becoming involved with violence reduction, including views of oneself and others, as well as personal characteristics and worldview. Quantitative measures on trauma symptoms, compassion, forgiveness, and posttraumatic growth will be administered as well.
In addition to work in the United States, a separately funded parallel project is currently taking place in Israel with 30 Jewish and Arab former combatants who have engaged in violence in the past and are now collaborating to actively engender joint dialogue between Jews and Arabs via various peacemaking activities. The mirror project’s academic home in Israel is the Interdisciplinary Center Hertzlia (IDC). Yoav Shamir, an award-winning filmmaker, is following both projects to further amplify the message of the research team and help advocate for future on-the-ground intervention work. In addition to publications, data harvested from this line of research will be used to create interventions to support at-risk youth in war zones and American inner cities and facilitate them in avoiding the cycle of violence and hatred and engaging in compassionate, prosocial, and heroic behaviors. Relationships and agreements were formed with Youth Uprising (a community center in Oakland) to conduct the interviews at their offices, as well as potentially in other secured community centers in California. Recruitment for the first wave of interviewees has successfully taken place, using the snowball methodology, with additional recruiting successfully deployed for the rest of the sample all over California. The researchers are conducting pilot interviews. The separately funded Israeli-Palestinian mirror project has completed more than half of the interviews.
8. A Multimodal Study of the Neural Correlates of Experiencing Admiration and Compassion
This project is a collaboration between Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Ed.D., at the University of Southern California, Josef Parvizi, MD, PhD, in the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University, and James Doty, MD
Although preliminary, the findings are very encouraging. First, Dr. Parvizi and his collaborators have demonstrated that a selective neural response can be recorded from specific brain sites during moral value judgment processing. Second, they have demonstrated that the response can be different during the early or late phases of the moral value judgment processing. Finally, they have shown that the iEEG data can be used to understand the timing of moral value judgment in various brain regions.
9. Compassion in the Political Arena
Matthew Feinberg, PhD and postdoctoral fellow with CCARE