Mindfulness Training Can Make You More Generous, OR More Selfish

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Michael J. Poulin, PhD, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychology
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Buffalo

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: A great deal of research suggests that practicing mindfulness–full attention to and acceptance of one’s experiences–can be good for individuals. Mindfulness seems to reduce stress and has other psychological benefits.

But what about its effects on others? Does mindfulness make people more generous and helpful, or does it make them more selfish?

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Our research suggests that a brief mindfulness exercise actually can make people more selfish–but it can also make them more generous or prosocial. The key seems to be how people think about themselves: when people are thinking about themselves as lone individuals, mindfulness makes them more selfish. But when people think about themselves in terms of their relationships and the groups they belong to, mindfulness makes people more generous.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Mindfulness by itself is not a force for social good–or bad. Its social effects appear to depend on how people think about themselves. In other words, mindfulness appears to intensify whatever a person’s social tendencies already were.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future research should examine whether these effects occur with sustained mindfulness training, unlike the brief exercise we examined. Future research could also examine exactly why these effects occur (i..e, what mental processes result from mindfulness that lead to selfish or generous behavior), and whether these effects are different in cultures outside of the US.

No disclosures.


Minding your own business? Mindfulness decreases prosocial behavior for those with independent self-construals

Michael Poulin, Lauren Ministero, Shira Gabriel, Carrie Morrison, Esha Naidu


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