Monday, July 23, 2012

Compassion Made Easy

From the NY Times:

ALL the major religions place great importance on compassion. Whether it’s the parable of the good Samaritan in Christianity, Judaism’s “13 attributes of compassion” or the Buddha’s statement that “loving kindness and compassion is all of our practice,” empathy with the suffering of others is seen as a special virtue that has the power to change the world. This idea is often articulated by the Dalai Lama, who argues that individual experiences of compassion radiate outward and increase harmony for all.

 Social psychologists interested in emotions wonder whether this spiritual understanding of compassion is also scientifically accurate. Empirically speaking, does the experience of compassion toward one person measurably affect our actions and attitudes toward other people? If so, are there practical steps we can take to further cultivate this feeling? Recently, experiments were conducted that answered yes to both questions.
In one experiment, designed with the psychologist Paul Condon and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, people were  to take part in a study that was ostensibly about the relation of mathematical ability to taste perception — but that in actuality was a study of how the experience of compassion affects your behavior....

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