The science of happiness and compassion (Day 41)

May 22, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessCompassion is becoming a “hot topic” in scientific research, and the good news is that compassion has been shown to be innate, and that it makes us happier, more popular, and healthier.

1. Compassion is wired into us

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology observed two-year-olds’ reactions to seeing an adult who needed help because he or she had dropped an object and had trouble picking it up. The children’s pupil size increased — a sign of heightened concern — when they saw the adult in distress. Their concern decreased if they were allowed to help (and 10 out of 12 children chose to do so) or if they saw a second … Read more »

Into ‘the science of thriving’

July 23, 2011

Anndee Hochman (The Inquirer): Richard Davidson has seen people change their minds.

Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, has used high-tech imaging tools to peer into the brains of Buddhist monks, electrodes trailing like spaghetti from their scalps, as they practice meditation. And he has seen their brains light up in areas related to empathy, attention, and mind-body interaction.

Davidson’s conclusion: We can train our brains – and our selves – to be more attentive, more compassionate, and even happier. “The key point is that happiness and other positive characteristics are best regarded as skills,” he says. “We can . . . engage in intentional efforts to cultivate positive habits of mind.”

Davidson … Read more »