Many people think that meditation can not only have an impact on stress and illness, but can also improve prosociality. But meditation and prosociality are multi-dimensional constructs: so what exactly are we talking about here?
Listen to my conversation with Dr Ute Kreplin at the School of Psychology, Massey University in New Zealand as we talk about her research examining this link, and how the way stadies are carried out can affect the sorts of results they report and how we need to be careful about how we interpret them.
Here is the link to the full paper we talk about in this week’s show:
And here is the abstract for context:
Many individuals believe that meditation has the capacity to not only alleviate mental-illness but to improve prosociality. This article systematically reviewed and meta-analysed the effects of meditation interventions on prosociality in randomized controlled trials of healthy adults. Five types of social behaviours were identified: compassion, empathy, aggression, connectedness and prejudice. Although we found a moderate increase in prosociality following meditation, further analysis indicated that this effect was qualified by two factors: type of prosociality and methodological quality. Meditation interventions had an effect on compassion and empathy, but not on aggression, connectedness or prejudice. We further found that compassion levels only increased under two conditions: when the teacher in the meditation intervention was a co-author in the published study; and when the study employed a passive (waiting list) control group but not an active one. Contrary to popular beliefs that meditation will lead to prosocial changes, the results of this meta-analysis showed that the effects of meditation on prosociality were qualified by the type of prosociality and methodological quality of the study. We conclude by highlighting a number of biases and theoretical problems that need addressing to improve quality of research in this area.