Mario Mikulincer and Phillip R. Shaver
According to attachment theory (Bowlby, 1973, 1982), the optimal functioning of the attachment behavioral system and the resulting sense of security in dealing with life’s challenges and difficulties facilitate the functioning of other behavioral systems, including the caregiving system that governs the activation of prosocial behavior and compassionate acts of helping needy others. In this chapter, we focus on what we have learned about the interplay of the attachment and caregiving systems and their effects on compassion and altruism. We begin by explaining the behavioral system construct in more detail and show how individual differences in a person’s attachment system affect the functioning of the caregiving system. We review examples from the literature on attachment, focusing on what attachment theorists call providing a “safe haven” for needy others. We then review studies that have shown how individual differences in attachment affect empathy, compassion, and support provision.
Phillip R. Shaver and Mario Mikulincer
Amori Yee Mikami
Norman B. Schmidt
Jessica L. Lakin and Tanya L. Chartrand
Megan L. Knowles
Jeff Schimel and Jeff Greenberg
A Call for Compassion and Care in Education: Toward a More Comprehensive Prosocial Framework for the Field
Brooke D. Lavelle, Lisa Flook, and Dara G. Ghahremani
Students are challenged by stressors that negatively impact their physical health and well-being as well as their ability to thrive in school. Many educators have mobilized to address these issues, as mounting evidence suggests that enhancing the social, emotional, cultural, and ethical aspects of schooling improves student well-being. These movements have stirred a variety of prosocial education initiatives—including Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and mindfulness-based programs—which have been shown to make a positive impact. Yet in spite of this growing interest in prosocial education, these movements have proceeded largely independently of one another and without a comprehensive theoretical model of prosocial development. In this chapter, we review the evidence of compassion-based interventions and offer a compassion-based framework as an organizing principle for the field that may help integrate diverse prosocial approaches and help educators respond most effectively to needs of our school communities.
Sue Shea and Christos Lionis
The concept of compassion applies to a number of situations and deserves to play a major role in health care. Within this chapter, we discuss the importance of compassionate care within both the hospital and primary healthcare settings, with a view to identifying ways of improving quality of care. We then discuss the importance of addressing compassion and health with regard to specific societal conditions such as during times of austerity, and towards vulnerable individuals such as the homeless who might experience specific health and social needs. Finally, we address factors that may hinder or promote compassion, before considering how compassion can be sustained in the longer term, and the extent to which the concept may be effectively incorporated in teaching and training programs.
Sasha Zarins and Sara Konrath
Compassion, or empathic concern, is an emotional response to another’s suffering, coupled with the desire to take action to alleviate that suffering. Throughout history, older generations have been critical of younger generations, often arguing that they are more self-focused than previous generations. However, it is important to examine actual data with respect to changes over time in such variables. Without doing so, we risk spreading potentially harmful and inaccurate stereotypes about young Americans. The goal of this chapter is to review research examining changes over time in compassion-related variables in the United States. Research suggests that compassion-related variables have indeed been declining over time, while self-focused variables have been increasing. However, we will also discuss counter-arguments and counter-evidence, and present possible implications of this research.
Paul K. Piff and Jake P. Moskowitz
Who is more likely to experience compassion: someone who is rich or someone who is poor? In this chapter, we review how psychological science can shed light on this question. We argue that social class differences in objective material resources (e.g., income) and corresponding subjective perceptions of rank produce self- versus other-oriented patterns of social cognition and behavior among upper- and lower-class individuals, respectively. Extending this framework to the domain of compassion, empirical studies find that individuals from lower social class backgrounds are more prone to feelings of compassion and more likely to behave in ways that are compassionate, including sharing with, caring for, and helping others, relative to individuals from higher social class backgrounds. We describe boundary conditions and mitigating factors to the class–compassion gap, and conclude by outlining important questions and lines of inquiry to guide future research.
Jennifer S. Mascaro, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, and Charles L. Raison
Recent research has examined the beneficial impact of kindness-based meditation practices, including cognitively-based compassion training (CBCT). Here we provide a theoretical and practical account of CBCT and review the emerging evidence that it affects the brain and body in ways that are relevant for health. Initial research demonstrated that CBCT alters immune function and stress physiology, and augments empathy as well as the neural activity supporting it. More recent studies indicate that CBCT is differentially effective, depending on the population that practices. We suggest directions for future research to best examine the apparently complex effects of CBCT on health and well-being.
C. Daryl Cameron
In the current chapter, I will discuss a phenomenon known as “compassion collapse”: people tend to feel and act less compassionately for multiple suffering victims than for a single suffering victim. This phenomenon contradicts many people’s expectations about how they would and should respond to situations in which the most victims are suffering, as in natural disasters and genocides. Precisely when it seems to be needed the most, compassion is felt the least. In the chapter, I describe studies documenting the effect, and compare two explanations of why compassion collapse occurs: one that focuses on basic capacity limitations on compassion, and another that focuses on motivational factors that lead people to strategically avoid compassion. I close by discussing open questions and future directions for study on this phenomenon.
Philippe R. Goldin and Hooria Jazaieri
Compassion is a powerful feature of human experience and is a key component of individual, interpersonal, organizational and societal well-being. It is a fundamental skill that can be trained. Cultivating compassion may contribute to sustained well-being in individuals, groups, and organizations. There is now a growing scientific and clinical interest in understanding how compassion can be cultivated, and a need to examine what psychological processes are modulated by compassion training programs. The goal of this chapter is to briefly define the complex concept of compassion, describe the structure and content of the compassion cultivation training (CCT) program designed at Stanford University, and then share some of the empirical findings of research on CCT in community samples.
Charles R. Figley and Kathleen Regan Figley
Drawing on more than 48 years of experience working with compassionate people who were suffering, the authors discuss and illustrate the useful applications of the new Compassion Fatigue Resilience Model. Briefly reviewing the relevant research and theoretical literature, they point to the common findings that human service workers frequently forget about their own workplace comforts and are often unaware of the heavy price they pay in giving service to others. Several case studies illustrate what prompts efforts to build compassion fatigue resilience, and the life improvements that result when these efforts are successful. These improvements not only enhance the quality of human services by the workers; attention to their mental health needs leads to better worker health and morale, and sense of mutual support that extends their careers.
Paul Gilbert and Jennifer S. Mascaro
While there is increasing research on the benefits and facilitators of compassion, as with all motives, there are inhibitors. This chapter will not cover the benefits of compassion, explored in other chapters, but instead considers its inhibitors: the fears, blocks, and resistances (FBRs) to compassion and their evolutionary and psychosocial origins. We begin with an explication of a model for compassion, and show how compassion rests on discrete components and competencies that can be differentially inhibited. Next, we utilize Ernst Mayr’s (1961) classic heuristic to understand compassion inhibition; namely, the “ultimate” and “proximate” analysis. We conclude with an exploration of the antidotes to these inhibitors. Greater research into the nature of compassion inhibitors and insights on how to address them could increase the use of compassion in different domains of life.
Tracy L. Spinrad and Nancy Eisenberg
Developmental psychologists have been increasingly interested in studying children’s “prosocial behavior,” defined as voluntary acts to benefit another. We begin this chapter by differentiating between empathy, sympathy, and personal distress reactions, arguing that compassion overlaps considerably with the construct of sympathy. Next, we focus on the normative development of children’s prosocial behavior and children’s empathy-related responses. Our empirical work also is reviewed, highlighting the differential associations of empathy, sympathy, and personal distress with children’s prosocial behavior. In addition, we discuss our work examining both dispositional and socialization factors that predict individual differences in children’s concern for others. We conclude by urging researchers to consider nuances in compassionate behaviors, such as studying the recipients of prosocial actions and different types of prosocial behaviors.
Compassion in Context: Tracing the Buddhist Roots of Secular, Compassion-Based Contemplative Programs
Brooke D. Lavelle
Various conceptions of compassion are articulated in diverse Buddhist contemplative traditions. These variations are due in part to the divergent models of mind and reality found within and across these traditions, as well as the ways in which compassion is understood to be either supportive or necessary for spiritual development or awakening. These diverse Buddhist models in particular have influenced the development modern, secular mindfulness- and compassion-based contemplative programs that have been selected for scientific study. In spite of growing interest from the scientific community in these compassion-based contemplative programs, there is little discussion of the differences between diverse contemplative and scientific accounts of compassion, and the implications of these differences for research. This chapter therefore offers an overview of the ways in which compassion is variously conceptualized in diverse Buddhist and scientific traditions.
James N. Kirby
The parenting a child receives has profound long-term impacts on that child’s life. The rates of child maltreatment globally are high. Evidence-based parenting programs have been demonstrated to have positive impacts on improving parenting style, whilst reducing childhood social, emotional, and behavioral problems. However, uptake in parenting interventions remains low, and governments have been reluctant to provide evidence-based parenting on a wide scale. This chapter aims, first, to show how the adoption of a public health approach to parenting can be considered wide-scale compassionate action, one that will reduce rates of child maltreatment (suffering), which is also cost-effective. Second, I argue that the next generation of evidence-based parenting programs need to be grounded in evolved, caring motivational systems and affiliative emotion processing, which requires an understanding of the evolved processes involved in parent–offspring caring and brain functioning. This new approach to parenting, “compassion-focused parenting,” will be described.
Olga M. Klimecki and Tania Singer
This chapter focuses on the neuroscience of compassion and related social emotions such as empathy, empathic concern, or empathic distress. First, we review neuroscientific literature on empathy and relate empathy to similar social emotions. We then turn to neuroscientific research on caregiving and social connection before describing cross-sectional studies on the neural signatures of compassion. To investigate whether training of compassion can change neural functions, the neural “fingerprints” of compassion expertise were studied in both expert and inexperienced meditators. The latter included the comparison between functional plasticity induced by empathy for suffering as opposed to compassion training. These studies show that compassion training changes neural functions, and that the neural substrates related to empathy for suffering differ experientially as well as neuronally. This is in line with the observation of distinct behavioral patterns related to feelings of empathic distress and compassion, described towards the end of the chapter.