Meditating leads to compassion: study

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Meditation can make people more compassionate, according to a new study.

Researchers from Harvard University and Northeastern University looked at whether meditating could lead to more compassionate behavior. Meditation participants did eight-week trainings, and then were given a test.

In the test, an actor would come into a staged waiting room and appear to be in great physical pain, while other actors ignored her. The question was whether the meditation team was more likely to come to the person's aid.

Among the non-meditating participants, only about 15% of people acted to help the person in pain. In the meditation group, that jumped to 50%.

 The results mean that meditation techniques may be helpful in developing compassion, specifically to respond to a person in pain. This could be particularly helpful if a resident in a long-term care facility is in pain.

“Meditating participants' goal may be to relieve the suffering rather than to conform to societal norms,” says author Paul Condon, a Northeastern psychology graduate student.

The Mind and Life Institute funded the study. Results were in Psychological Science.