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date: 13 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Compassion meditation is a form of mental training that cultivates compassion towards oneself and other people, and is thought to result in greater prosocial behavior in real-world settings. This framework views compassion as a quality that can be trained, rather than a stable trait, and scientists have started testing these hypotheses using neuroscientific and objective behavioral methods. How does this internal meditative practice translate to external behavioral changes? We propose an emotion-regulation model of compassion meditation, where responses to suffering may change through three processes: (1) increasing empathic responses, (2) decreasing avoidance responses, and (3) increasing compassionate responses to suffering. These altered responses to suffering may lead to behavioral transfer, where prosocial behavior is more likely to occur, even in a non-meditative state. We summarize the neuroscientific and behavioral literature that may provide early support for this model, and make recommendations for future research to further test the model.

Keywords: compassion meditation, mental training, emotion regulation, neuroscience, brain imaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), prosocial behavior, altruism, empathy

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