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Changing for the better? Effects of meditation based trainings on different sub-components of prosociality

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Böckler,  Anne
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Tusche,  Anita
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Singer,  Tania
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Böckler, A., Tusche, A., & Singer, T. (2015). Changing for the better? Effects of meditation based trainings on different sub-components of prosociality. Talk presented at Conference of the International Society for Research on Emotion (ISRE). Geneva, Switzerland. 2015-07-08 - 2015-07-10.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-2FAF-0
Abstract
Prosocial behavior is at the heart of functioning societies. In order to investigate the structure of human prosociality, approaches from different research traditions were integrated, ranging from self-reports to economic games and computer-based psychological experiments. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses in 187 participants (mean age 41, age range 20 to 55, 61% female) we identified four reliable and independent factors of human social behavior: prosocial motivation, norm driven behavior, strategizing and self-reported prosociality. After having identified these four subcomponents, we investigated how these changed as a function of subjects practicing different types of mental training techniques throughout three different 3-month long training modules focusing on a) attention and interoceptive awareness (Presence), b) loving kindness and prosocial motivation (Affective), and c) metacognitive skills as well as perspective taking on self and others (Perspective). Results revealed that prosocial motivation was enhanced by all three modules, but most efficiently after the affect-based training. Norm-driven behavior in contrast was reduced by all practices, but mostly so by the metacognition and perspective taking based training. Interestingly, changes in self-reported prosociality did not correlate with changes in actually observed prosocial or norm-driven behavior. Thus, the present results provide evidence that the tendency to consider oneself as prosocial does not necessarily relate to one’s actual prosocial behavior neither before nor after training. Moreover, we show that prosocial preferences and behavior are not stable, but can be differentially altered by engaging some months in specific mental training practices. This has theoretical and practical implications for economical and psychological research as well as for large-scale trainings that aim for societal changes and caring economics.