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., & 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.
Jazaieri, H., Jinpa, G., McGonigal, K., Rosenberg, E., Finkelstein, J., Simon-Thomas, E., Cullen, M., Doty, J., Gross, J., & Goldin, P. (2012). Enhancing compassion: A randomized controlled trial of a Compassion Cultivation Training program. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1113-1126. doi:10.1007/s10902-012-9373-z
This study measured the impact of a compassion training program on fear of compassion and self-compassion. Furthermore, the study asked whether compassion can be trained and cultivated. Participants filled out questionnaires before and after a 9-week Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) program. The scientists observed a decrease in fear of compassion and an increase in self-compassion. The data also suggest that certain elements of compassion can be cultivated through training.
Berger, R. & Zimbardo, P. (2012). Creating a partner: A qualitative study of political extremists and ex-gang members who have chosen the antiviolence path. Retrieved from The Council on Foreign Relations website: http://www.cfr.org/radicalization-and-extremism/save-supporting-document-creating-partner/p26892
This study looks at the determinants of the ‘psychological code’ of former extremists: former gang members and former extremist Israelis and Palestinians. The study examines factors leading these previously violent groups of people towards reconciliation by examining three theoretical perspectives: dispositional, characterological, and interactionalist. It was found that the interactionalist model may be the best to explain transitions from violent extremism to reconciliation and peacekeeping activity. The interactionalist model argues that prosocial behavior is determined by predispositions equally along with situational and cultural factors.
Dastjerdi, M., Foster, B. L., Nasrullah, S., Rauschecker, A. M., Dougherty, R. F., Townsend, J. D., Chang, C., Greicius, M. D., Menon, V., Kennedy, D. P., & Parvizi, J. (2011). Differential electrophysiological response during rest, self-referential, and non-self-referential tasks in human posteromedial cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences, 108(7), 3023-3028. doi:10.1073/pnas.1017098108
This study examined activation in the human posteromedial cortex, a region of the brain also called the “default mode network.” Electrophysiological measurements of the DMN during rest and while thinking about oneself were used and it was found that different regions of the DMN were activated during rest vs. during thoughts about the self. This region is activated during rest as well as during thoughts about oneself and is de-activated during activity directed outward. Researchers have speculated that its activation during rest signifies activation of thoughts about oneself during rest.