A first- and second-person perspective on the impact of meditation

Research Category: Interdisciplinary Topics, Centers and Institutes
Presenter: Paul Condon
PI: David DeSteno

A plethora of studies reveal that different forms of meditation practice reduce stress and increase overall well-being. Limited work has examined how meditation shapes and influences social phenomena, however. In prior work, we demonstrated that an eight-week training in compassion- or mindfulness-based meditation led to increases in real-world compassionate behavior measured in an orchestrated scenario outside the laboratory. The current study extended this work by examining whether compassion- and mindfulness-based meditation altered the perceptions of a participant’s traits and behaviors as rated by an outside observer (i.e., a “second-person perspective”). Specifically, we asked the friends of those people participating in a meditation study to make ratings about the participant before and after training in compassion- or mindfulness-based meditation, or an active control. We also looked at participants’ own self-ratings of their own traits and behaviors. Results showed that each group shaped traits and behaviors in different ways, through friends did not always agree. Results are discussed in relation to the broader question of whether and to what extend meditation increases interpersonal harmony and compassionate behavior.