The neural mediators of kindness-based meditation: A theoretical model

Jennifer S. Mascaro, Alana Darcher, Lobsang T. Negi, Charles L. Raison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although kindness-based contemplative practices are increasingly employed by clinicians and cognitive researchers to enhance prosocial emotions, social cognitive skills, and well-being, and as a tool to understand the basic workings of the social mind, we lack a coherent theoretical model with which to test the mechanisms by which kindness-based meditation may alter the brain and body. Here, we link contemplative accounts of compassion and loving-kindness practices with research from social cognitive neuroscience and social psychology to generate predictions about how diverse practices may alter brain structure and function and related aspects of social cognition. Contingent on the nuances of the practice, kindness-based meditation may enhance the neural systems related to faster and more basic perceptual or motor simulation processes, simulation of another's affective body state, slower and higher-level perspective-taking, modulatory processes such as emotion regulation and self/other discrimination, and combinations thereof. This theoretical model will be discussed alongside best practices for testing such a model and potential implications and applications of future work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume6
Issue numberFEB
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

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Keywords

  • Compassion
  • Compassion meditation
  • Empathy
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Meditation
  • Mentalizing
  • Oxytocin
  • Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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