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date: 10 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Historically, social psychologists are known for demonstrating the power of situations to reduce compassionate impulses and prosocial behavior. The simple presence of other people, for example, can decrease the rates at which people act to help others. Yet more recent findings also point to the power of situations to evoke other-oriented emotional states that increase intentions and actions to help others and build relationships. In this chapter, we review the current social psychological literature on compassion and its role in shaping moral decision-making and relationship formation. We then turn to the burgeoning field of contemplative science and demonstrate the role of meditation practices in shaping prosocial character. In the end, this literature suggests that humans are amenable to situational forces that tip the scales in favor of compassionate responding. Moreover, such behaviors can be increased through simple, readily available meditation-based exercises.

Keywords: emotion, prosocial behavior, moral decision-making, meditation, mindfulness, social psychology

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