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In the following, we introduce a framework of prosociality that does justice to the heterogeneity of the phenomenon, and a conceptual framework of mental training that differentiates specific types of mental practices.
Prosocial behaviour is defined as behaviour that is costly to the individual and benefits others at the individual or group-level.
Interestingly, dramatic acts in the name of religion, such as being pierced by hooks and swung from a crane didn't send the strongest messages -- instead, the connection was strongest for the simple act of regular worship.
"That has often a bigger effect on your reputational standing than big, extreme acts," Power says.
Global challenges such as climate change or the refugee crises emphasize the necessity of altruism and cooperation.
In a large-scale 9-month intervention study, we investigated the malleability of prosociality by three distinct mental trainings cultivating attention, socio-affective, or socio-cognitive skills.
This data-driven approach structured the measures of prosociality according to three distinct latent factors (Fig.
1): Altruistically motivated prosocial behaviour that aims to enhance others’ well-being even at a cost to oneself; norm motivated prosocial behaviour representing the tendency to enforce social norms through costly punishment; and self-reported prosocial behaviour as the disposition or motivation to perceive and/or describe oneself as moral, generous, and helpful.
Research on cooperation and altruism has been the focus of many disciplines ranging from philosophy and psychology), recent studies have also started to address the influence of mindfulness-, compassion-, or loving-kindness-based trainings on adults’ prosocial behaviours, such as charitable donations, helping, or contributions in an economic decision-making task.
Furthermore, linear mixed effects models reveal differential effects of mental trainings on the subcomponents of prosociality: Only training care and compassion effectively boosted altruistically motivated behaviour. Self-reported prosociality increased with all training modules; this increase was, however, unrelated to changes in task-based measures of altruistic behaviour.
These findings corroborate our motivation-based framework of prosociality, challenge economic views of fixed preferences by showing that socio-affective training boosts altruism, and inform policy makers and society about how to increase global cooperation.
Also surprising: just how much of an effect religious acts had on others.
"These are people who know each other well and have many lines of evidence to draw on, of which religion is just one." Power says.Contemplative mental interventions typically involve numerous different practices, and prosocial behaviours can be motivated and expressed in various ways, limiting conclusions based on mixed training programs such as MBSR.