Originally inspired by centuries-old Buddhist practices that included philosophies and meditation together, today a secular version of mindfulness – which includes only meditation – is becoming increasingly popular. .
There are phone apps that help increase self-awareness, and many large corporations are incorporating mindfulness training programs into their curriculum. But there may be an unforeseen upside to secular mindfulness meditation practices, according to new research led by Washington University’s Foster School of Business and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology festival.
“Meditation can reduce guilt, thereby limiting responses such as generosity that are important to human relationships.” Andrew Hafenbrack, lead author of the Foster School who studies mindfulness, said.
The researchers wanted to know how mindfulness meditation reduces negative emotions like anger and guilt.
“Negative emotions can be unpleasant, but they can help us navigate social situations and maintain relationships.” Hafenbrack said.
“If someone gets really angry and screams at their boss or something, and they get fired or make people feel unsafe, then you know that’s a bad thing.” Hafenbrack said. “However, not all negative emotions are the same in terms of the types of behaviors they line up.”
When people feel guilty, it tends to cause them to focus outwardly, on others, which can prompt actions to change.
“Short-term meditation is a tool that can make people feel better, like taking an aspirin when they have a headache.” Hafenbrack said. “We have a responsibility as researchers to share not only the many positive effects of meditation, but also the unintended side effects, such as the possibility that it sometimes dilates one’s moral compass. .”
To better understand the practice of meditation, researchers conducted eight experiments with more than 1,400 participants in the US and Portugal. The participants were different for each trial – some were US adults recruited online, some were graduate students studying at a university in Portugal, and another group mostly is an undergraduate at the Wharton School of Business.
In their first study, researchers demonstrated that mindfulness reduces guilt. Participants were randomly assigned to write about a past situation that made them feel guilty or to write about their previous day.
They then listened to an 8-minute guided mindfulness meditation recording instructing them to focus on the bodily sensations of the breath or an 8-minute state of control recording in which they were directed to: lead the mind to wander.
Participants who listened to the mindfulness recording reported feeling less guilt than those in the mind-wandering control group. This is true whether they wrote about a sinful situation or their previous day.
The team then conducted six other experiments to test whether mindfulness meditation affects socially comparative behaviors, such as making up with a friend after doing something hurtful. harmful.
For example, in two experiments, all participants were asked to recall and write about a time when they did someone wrong and felt guilty, before being randomly assigned to meditate or not.
They were then asked to allocate a hypothetical $100 between a birthday gift for someone they had mistreated, a charity for African flood victims, and themselves. Participants who meditated allotted about 17% less to the person they did wrong than those who didn’t meditate.
The psychological process behind these attribution differences reduced guilt. These and three other similar experiments have established that mindfulness meditation reduces the propensity to modify when it comes to harming others.
“This study serves as a warning to those who may be tempted to use mindfulness meditation to alleviate uncomfortable emotions, but is needed to support ethical thoughts and behaviour,” Co-author Isabelle Solal, an assistant professor at ESSEC Business School in Cergy-Pointoise, France.
While focused breathing meditation is the most common form of meditation, used in mindfulness programs such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Google’s Inner Self, the study also explored meditation. kindness also appeared in those programs. Loving-kindness meditation includes visual exercises in which one person opens the door to another and sends wishes that each person is happy, healthy, and free of suffering.
In the final experiment, the participants again wrote about a time when they did someone wrong and felt guilty, before listening to a mindfulness breathing meditation recording or a loving-kindness meditation recording.
Participants in the compassion group reported higher intentions to contact, apologize, and make up for those they had harmed than those in the focused breathing group. The difference was explained by the participants’ increased focus on others and feelings of love.
“Our study suggests that loving-kindness meditation may allow people to get the stress-reducing benefits of meditation without reducing repair costs, because it increases focus on others and feelings of compassion.” sense of love,” Matthew LaPalme, co-author, was a former research scientist at Yale University and now works at Amazon.