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date: 18 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

How do we, as scientists, define compassion? Is it an emotional state, a motivation, a dispositional trait, or a cultivated attitude? In this introductory chapter, we set forth a working definition for compassion, situate compassion in the context of related terms and mental experiences, and orient readers to the key questions addressed by the authors in this handbook. Particular attention is paid to the evolutionary origins of compassion, the biological structures and processes implicated in compassion, the degree to which compassion is universal and variable across cultures, and documented approaches to fostering compassion. In closing, we explore the potential impact of training compassion on personal well-being, the quality of relationships, organizational success, and society more broadly.

Keywords: compassion, empathy, sympathy, caregiving, emotion, motivation, attitude, trait

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