Reading People's Emotions, With Meditation's Help

A new study from the Emory-Tibet Partnership showed that a form of compassion-based meditation helped increased test subjects' ability to interpret others' facial expressions.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What's the Latest Development?

A study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience suggests that the use of compassion-based meditation -- a form of meditation that focuses on mindfulness in relationships -- improves people's ability to read others' expressions and act accordingly. The research included before-and-after MRI brain scans done while participants took a test that required them to look at photos of people's eyes and judge how the people were feeling. Those subjects that participated in the meditation practice improved their test scores by an average of 4.6 percent, and showed increased neural activity in the areas of their brains that relate to empathy. 

What's the Big Idea?

The research was done at the Emory-Tibet Partnership at Emory University, where director and study co-author Lobsang Tenzin Negi says that the compassion-based meditation protocol developed at the institute "aims to condition one's mind to recognize how we are all inter-dependent, and that everybody desires to be happy and free from suffering at a deep level." Fellow researcher Charles Raison suggests that the next step involve evaluating "diverse populations that may particularly benefit from enhanced empathic accuracy, such as those suffering from high-functioning autism or severe depression."

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