Published Research Supported By CCARE Scientists.
Since its inception, CCARE has supported and collaborated on a number of groundbreaking research projects that have resulted in cross-disciplinary publications on the science of compassion. Below, please find a list of our publications with a summary of their findings.
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Feinberg, M., & Willer, R. (2013). The moral roots of environmental attitudes. Psychological Science, 24(1), 56-62. doi:10.1177/0956797612449177
This article highlights three studies on the attitudes Americans have about the environment and examines the causes that lead to the political polarization of environmental issues. The first of the three studies found that liberals consider the environment issues in moral terms. The second study found that environmental discourse found in newspaper op-eds and public-service announcements is framed in moral concern centered on harm and care, which is a belief more embraced by liberals. The third study found that by reframing proenvironmental rhetoric in terms of purity, a different moral value embraced by conservatives, reduced the political polarization. This provides evidence for a need to reframe environmental discourse in different moral terms to reduce political polarization of environmental issues.
Gunaydin, L. A., Grosenick, L., Finkelstein, J. C., Kauvar, I. V., Fenno, L. E., Adhikari, A., Lammel, S., Mirzabekov, J. J., Airan, R. D., Zalocusky, K. A., Tye, K. M., Anikeeva, P., Malenka, R. C., & Deisseroth, K. (2014). Natural neural projection dynamics underlying social behavior. Cell, 157(7), 1535-1551. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2014.05.017
This study applied fiber photometry to elucidate circuit level pathways of endogenous neural activity during social interaction. Results revealed the activity dynamic of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to nucleus accumbens (NAc) could encode and predict key features of social interaction. The study found that the optogenetic control of cells specifically contributing to this projection was sufficient to modulate social behavior, which was mediated by type 1 dopamine receptors signaling downstream in the NAc.
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Ruchelli, G., Chapin, H., Darnall, B., Seppala, E., Doty, J., & Mackey, S. (2014). Compassion meditation training for people living with chronic pain and their significant others: a pilot study and mixed-methods analysis. The Journal of Pain, 15(4), S117. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2014.01.479
A pilot study of limited female participants with chronic pain who received 9, two-hour weekly sessions of compassion meditation training (Compassion Cultivation Training or CCT). Pre- and post self-reports were completed by participants with chronic pain as well as their significant other. It was hypothesized that not only participants with chronic pain would receive benefits from CCT but also the benefits would extend to their significant other without actually going through the training themselves. Participants with chronic pain reported a significant reduction in pain severity and anger and an increase in well-being indicators such as self-acceptance and environmental mastery; however, only a reduced trend was found for anger in significant others.
Feinberg, M., Willer, R., & Schultz, M. (2014). Gossip and ostracism promote cooperation in groups. Psychological Science, 25(3), 656-665. doi:10.1177/0956797613510184
This study examined how gossip promotes cooperation among groups while preventing exploitation of ostracized individuals. The excluded individuals, in turn, respond by cooperating at levels comparable to those of non-ostracized individuals. The study suggests that gossip promotes prosocial behavior due to reputation saliency.
Genevsky, A., Vastfjall, D., Slovic, P., & Knutson, B. (2013). Neural underpinnings of the identifiable victim effect: Affect shifts preferences for giving. The Journal of Neuroscience, 33(43), 17188-17196. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2348-13.2013
This study measured compassion and giving at the level of brain function. The investigators found that emotional reaction toward the recipient impacted the neural and behavioral correlates of giving. In particular, the more people could relate to someone in need (by identifying their physical features) and the more positively participants felt toward someone in need, the more likely they were to want to give to them.
Seppala, E., Rossomando, T., & Doty, J. (2013). Social connection and compassion: Important predictors of health and well-being. Social Research, 80(2), 411-430. doi:10.1353/sor.2013.0027
Several decades of research on social connection now confirm that social connection is linked to a substantial number of psychological and physical health benefits as well as longer survival rates. Despite its importance, sociological research suggests that social connection is waning at an alarming rate in modern American society. In view of the importance of social connection as a human motivator and determinant of well-being, the authors present social connection’s benefits for health, well-being and behavior as well as the detrimental effects of loneliness and give an overview about potential ways to increase social connection through the cultivation of compassion.
Jazaieri, H., McGonigal, K., Jinpa, T., Doty, J. R., Gross, J. J., & Golden, P. R. (2013). A randomized controlled trial of compassion cultivation training: Effects on mindfulness, affect, and emotion regulation. Motivation and Emotion, 38, 23-35. doi: 10.1007/s11031-013-9368-z
Researchers compared the effects of a 9-week compassion cultivation training (CCT) program to a wait-list (WL) control group on mindfulness, affect, and emotion regulation. Compared to WL, CCT resulted in increased mindfulness and happiness, as well as decreased worry and emotional suppression. Implications for cognitive and emotion factors in relation to psychological well-being are discussed.
Berger, R., Gelkopf, M., & Heineberg, Y. (2012). A Teacher-Delivered Intervention for Adolescents Exposed to Ongoing and Intense Traumatic War-Related Stress: A Quasi-Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51, 453-461. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.02.011
This study compared a stress-reduction intervention (ERASE-stress) to a wait-list control in 154 Israeli middle school children, half of whom had symptoms of war-related trauma. The active group showed a significant reduction in self-reported trauma-related symptoms (anxiety, post-traumatic stress, somatic symptoms and functional impairment).
Koopmann-Holm, B., Sze, J., Ochs, C., & Tsai, J. L. (2013). Buddhist-inspired meditation increases the value of calm. Emotion, 13(3), 497-505. doi:10.1037/a0031070
This study measured the “actual” and “ideal” affects of meditation. The participants hoped to feel more calm and less excited after meditating. After eight weeks the meditation group reported feeling more calm; however, there were no differences between them and the two control groups in ideal or actual excitement. The findings suggest that meditation increases the ideal affect of calmness but not actual affect.
Simon-Thomas, E. R., Godzik, J., Castle, E., Antonenko, E., Ponz, A., Kogan, A., & Keltner, D. J. (2012). An fMRI study of caring vs. self-focus during induced compassion and pride. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7(6), 635-648. doi:10.1093/scan/nsr045
This study compared brain regions activated during compassion, an other-oriented emotion, to brain regions activated during pride, a more self-focused emotion. Slides were used to induce either compassion or pride and emotions were measured using fMRI. Compassion was associated with activity in the “empathy network,” regions of the brain responsible for pain and the perception of others’ pain as well as parental nurturing behaviors. Pride, on the other hand, was associated with activity in regions associated with thoughts about oneself.