Can Compassion Be Learned?

Slate talks to James Doty, founder of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University about Stanford's investment in altruism research. 

Neurosurgeon James Doty, the founder and director of CCARE talked to Slate about the center’s alturism research, it’s ongoing mission to understand the neuroscience of compassion and altrium on a deep level, and the impact of these behaviors on health and longevity.

CCARE has been tracking and conducting research on compassion, and Doty shares some of those results, noting that that the data is “preliminary.” But he does envision that research contributing to a hands-on experience. When asked about CCARE’s future, Doty talks about creating a “mental gym” where individuals can maximize the results gleaned from research.

From the article:

“I would like to create a virtual compassion gym, where individuals get a psychological profile which takes into account what resonates with them […] Additionally, we would incorporate what we have learned from online gaming and psychology on engagement. Based on that, we would create a plan so they can strengthen their compassion muscle and then show how they benefit, both mentally and physiologically. If we’ve done our work correctly, the results will be strong motivators for them to continue, hopefully making their lives and society better.”

Sound like the kind of gym you’d want to go to?

To read the full Q & A, click here. If you want to hear more from James Doty, you can watch his interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn about compassion.

If you want to learn more about compassion and meditation research, you might want to read “How To Train the Compassionate Brain.” The article looks at a new study suggesting that training adults in a loving-kindness-style “compassion meditation” actually makes them significantly more altruistic toward others.