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Prosocial emotions in social neuroscience: From empathy to compassion and their plasticity


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

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Singer, T. (2014). Prosocial emotions in social neuroscience: From empathy to compassion and their plasticity. Talk presented at LeWeb. Paris, France. 2014-12-10 - 2014-12-10.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-362C-2
My presentation will focus on the inherent potential for empathy, compassion and prosociality that humans have. Moreover, I will suggest that we consider an institutional reform aimed at adapting social environments as well as introduce mental training programs to activate and cultivate our motivation to engage in caring and sustainable behavior, rather than seeking only competition, achievement, power, and status. The emerging field of social and contemplative neurosciences has begun to produce evidence for the effectiveness of secular mental training programs to foster plasticity of pro-social preferences and motivation. Mental-training programs aimed at boosting compassion and pro-social motivation have led to increased activity in neural networks related to positive emotions and affiliation and a simultaneous reduction of stress-related responses and hormones. At the same time, they promote prosocial behavior and a broader, less self-centered perspective that accounts for humans’ interdependence. These promising findings now should be translated into new economic models and concrete policy proposals.