Meditation breeds compassion

Those who meditate are three times more likely than a person who does not meditate to help somebody in difficulty

Person helping anotherThat mediation helps an individual has been proved by innumerable studies. A new study delved into the effect of meditation on an individual’s interpersonal behaviour.

The study, conducted by psychological scientist David DeSteno of Northeastern University and his team, put participants through eight weeks of training in two types of meditation. Their compassion level was then tested using staged events.

They were asked to sit in a waiting room with three chairs. Two chairs were occupied by actors. After a participant sat on the third and final chair, one more actor entered the room. This person was walking with the help of crutches and was apparently in severe pain. The two actors sitting on the chair would ignore the actor in pain. The team recorded how many participants would help this actor in pain.

“We know meditation improves a person’s own physical and psychological wellbeing,” said Condon. part of the research team, “We wanted to know whether it actually increases compassionate behaviour.”

Only about 15 per cent of those who did not mediate offered to help. However 50 per cent of those who meditated offered to help.

Though the mediation taught differed, it did not matter. Both types of meditation increased the helping behaviour.

“The truly surprising aspect of this finding is that meditation made people willing to act virtuous — to help another who was suffering — even in the face of a norm not to do so,” DeSteno said. “The fact that the other actors were ignoring the pain creates as ‘bystander-effect’ that normally tends to reduce helping. People often wonder ‘Why should I help someone if no one else is?’”

The study was funded by the Mind and Life Institute.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Read the whole story on the APS website.


  1. No wonder meditation breeds compassion.

    Meditation widens the awareness, and takes you beyond the ego and beyond mental programming. When this happens, you become more compassionate.


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