Seven minutes of meditation can reduce racial prejudice

wildmind meditation news

A popular meditation technique that’s intended to create feelings of kindness can also reduce prejudice, according to new University of Sussex research.

The study, published online in the journal Motivation and Emotion, found that just seven minutes of Loving-kindness meditation (LKM), a Buddhist practice that promotes unconditional kindness towards oneself and others, is effective at reducing racial bias.

Lead researcher Alexander Stell, a doctoral student in Psychology, said: “This indicates that some meditation techniques are about much more than feeling good, and might be an important tool for enhancing inter-group harmony.”

LKM is known to engender happiness and kindness to oneself and others through repeating phrases such as ‘may you be happy and healthy’ while visualising a particular person.

See also:

Some previous studies have shown that inducing happiness in people, for example by exposing them to upbeat music, can actually make them more likely to have prejudiced thoughts compared to those hearing sad music.

Mr Stell said: “We wanted to see whether doing LKM towards a member of another ethnic group would reduce the automatic preference people tend to show for their own ethnic group.”

For the study, a sample of 71 white, non-meditating adults were each given a photo of a gender-matched black person and either received taped LKM instructions, or instructions to look at the photos and notice certain features of the face. Both conditions lasted just seven minutes.

Using the Implicit Association Test, the researchers then scored the reaction times of the participants who were asked to match up positive and negative words (for example “happiness” or “wrong”) with faces that belonged to either their own or another ethnic group.

On average people are quicker to match positive stimuli with their own group and quicker to match negative stimuli to the other group. This produces a bias ‘score’ that is considered a more robust measure of prejudice than traditional questionnaire data, which are known to be strongly influenced by social desirability.

The researchers found that just seven minutes of LKM directed to a member of a specific racial group (in this case, a black person) was sufficient to reduce racial bias towards that group. However, there was no marked reduction in racial bias towards other groups.

Additionally the researchers measured levels of positive emotions that were either ‘other-regarding’ (e.g. love, gratitude, awe, elevation) and those that were more self-directed (e.g. contentment, joy, pride) and found that people doing LKM showed large increases specifically in these other-regarding emotions. These other-regarding emotions were found to be what drives the reduction of bias.

Read More

Study finds being exposed to Buddhist concepts reduces prejudice and increases prosociality

wildmind meditation news

Eric W. Dolan, PsyPost: Researchers from Belgium and Taiwan have found that being exposed to Buddhist concepts can lead to increased prosocial behavioral intentions and undermine prejudice towards others.

Buddhism contains a variety of teachings and practices – such as meditation – intended to help individuals develop a more open-minded and compassionate personality. Unlike the three dominant monotheistic religions, it does not draw a sharp line between believers and unbelievers.

In three separate experiments of 355 individuals, the researchers found that being exposed to words related to Buddhism could “automatically activate prosociality and tolerance, in particular among people with socio-cognitive open-mindedness.”

The study adds to a growing body of research about priming, a phenomenon in which merely being exposed to certain words or concepts changes the way people think or behave. It was published in the April issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

See also:

When Westerners familiar with Buddhism read religious words like “Dharma” and “Nirvana” – which they were exposed to under the guise of completing a word puzzle – they reported lower negative attitudes toward outgroups compared to participants exposed to positive non-religious words like “freedom.”

Westerners with a Christian background also became more tolerant after being exposed to Buddhist concepts, though only among those with a predisposition for valuing the welfare of all people and an aversion towards authoritarianism. Implicit association tests showed that these participants were less prejudiced against African people and Muslims than participants exposed to Christian concepts or neutral concepts.

Westerners with a Christian background also scored higher on measures of prosociality after being exposed to Buddhist concepts. Surprisingly, participants did not score higher on measures of prosociality after being exposed to Christian concepts.

The effect of being exposed to Buddhist concepts was not restricted to cultures in which the religion was seen as particularly exotic, the researchers said. Being exposed to Buddhist concepts also fostered increased tolerance and prosociality, compared with neutral and Christian concepts, among participants living in Taiwan.

“To conclude, we think that this work provides, for the first time, experimental evidence in favor of the idea that in both the East and the West, across people from both Christian and Eastern Asian religious traditions, Buddhist concepts automatically activate positive social behavioral outcomes, that is, prosociality and low prejudice, in particular among people with personal dispositions of socio-cognitive openness,” the researchers wrote.

“Unlike Christian and other monotheistic religious systems that paradoxically seem to encourage not only prosociality but also prejudice, Buddhist ideas favor both prosociality and outgroup tolerance, and these ideals seem particularly efficient (in leading to action) for people with relevant personality dispositions.”

“Emotional (compassion) and cognitive (tolerance of contradictions) mechanisms explain, to some extent, how Buddhist concepts, across cultural and religious contexts, enhance prosocial and tolerant attitudes and behavioral tendencies. Religious and cultural characteristics ‘travel’ and influence people’s attitudes and behavior in a globalized world even at the implicit level of consciousness,” the researchers concluded.

Read More

Learning hatred


Hatred is not innate. It is learned. We are not born with hatred in our hearts, but we are born into a culture of hatred. We can see the evidence around us. It’s in our newspapers, on television, in our communities. Some of us enjoy watching war being acted out on television. Violence has become entertainment. When I explore conflict with young children, some of them say that if it’s tough at home they’ll take it out on somebody at school. For many of them, fighting in the playground is entertainment. One child said it’s like going to a movie. With the advent of mobile phones with video cameras, children will boast about videoing fights and charge their friends to watch.

We know children learn by imitating adults, and if they grow up with violence around them they learn how to confuse hatred and anger with love. When their parents or carers fight each other, the children witness violent behavior. Some children see their mother being physically abused in one breath, and in the next hear their father tell their mother he loves her. The mother might also tell the child that daddy hit her because he loves her, in order to make things all right for the child. Similarly, if we were hit as a child and told by the adult it’s because they love us, we begin to think love is violent, so it is OK to be violent. People who remain in violent relationships have often learned as children that violence is part and parcel of all types of love relationships. Another way a child learns hatred is when he or she is physically, sexually, or mentally abused; then the feelings of powerlessness, vulnerability, and invasion can be so difficult to contain that the strong emotion of hatred can help temporarily quash the fear and pain.

Some theories state that children are more able to cope with their lives if they hear the gruesome tales of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. Some writers, like Bruno Bettelheim, claim that fairytales are important for a child’s development. He believes they help children become powerful in relation to adults, especially in stories in which a little boy has overcome a giant. Although this is true, I would also argue that fairytales are often about humiliation or annihilation. The classic children’s fairytales are often based on good and evil. The good person can never do wrong; their behavior is justified, even if it is hateful. It is almost as though they have a right to behave in a way that annihilates another being. While I believe some fairytales can have a positive effect on a child’s development, I’m not convinced that we are completely aware of the effect of some of the more violent and humiliating stories. Are they the best stories to tell children just before they are tucked up in bed? What effect do they have? I know for myself that when I fall asleep after hearing violent or disturbing news, it affects my thoughts, and even how I feel when I wake the next morning.

Some people are born into communities where hatred and violence are prevalent. In the film City of God (2002), we see how children as young as five and six pick up guns and kill people in the ghettoes of Brazil. In some war zones, the soldiers are little more than children fighting as guerrillas. I have worked in London with boys as young as eight and nine who carry knives, sell drugs, and where it is not uncommon to have a parent or sibling shot dead or killed in a fight.

Then there is the hatred we just take for granted. Throughout modern British history, police have been called pigs. This language will have an effect on how we interact with the police. Stories passed down from African families about slavery, and from Jewish families about genocide, have meant some people have grown up with hatred towards the colonizer or towards the Germans. In fact, we grow up with so much of how our families may have been wronged, or had to struggle in past generations. it is inevitable that our hearts will be affected.

Practice: reflecting on the past

Take a moment to pause, then become aware how you might have been affected while growing up. Recall some of the stories that affected your heart. Try to recognize which of your prejudices come from your parents, teachers, or the media.

By recognizing our conditioning we can begin to let go of hatred in our heart

Read More