Human-ities · Science

The Science of Compassion

ALL the major religions place great importance on compassion. Whether it’s the parable of the good Samaritan in Christianity, Judaism’s “13 attributes of compassion” or the Buddha’s statement that “loving kindness and compassion is all of our practice,” empathy with the suffering of others is seen as a special virtue that has the power to change the world. This idea is often articulated by the Dalai Lama, who argues that individual experiences of compassion radiate outward and increase harmony for all.

As a social psychologist interested in the emotions, I long wondered whether this spiritual understanding of compassion was also scientifically accurate. Empirically speaking, does the experience of compassion toward one person measurably affect our actions and attitudes toward other people? If so, are there practical steps we can take to further cultivate this feeling? Recently, my colleagues and I conducted experiments that answered yes to both questions.

Excerpt of an article written by DAVID DeSTENO, NYT. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Science · Social/Politics · Theory

Religious People Are Less Compassionate Than Atheists

A series of three new studies indicates that less religious people, agnostics and atheists are more likely to be generous to those in need while driven by compassion than highly religious individuals. The works call into question widespread assumptions about the link between religion and compassion.

Researchers from the University of California in Berkeley (UCB) found that people in the latter category are less likely to be driven by compassion when they are generous. Social scientists at the university say that compassion is unrelated to generosity in this group.

On the other hand, people in the first category are very likely to give to the poor, or help others out simply because they are compassionate. In other words, their actions come from a genuine interest for helping others out, not because their religion calls for this behavior.

Details of the three studies appear in the latest online issue of the esteemed journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The researchers say that acts of generosity and charity may not be driven by feelings of empathy and compassion, as some studies had suggested.

“Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not,” UCB social psychologist Robb Willer says. He was a coauthor of the new paper.

“The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns,” the expert goes on to say.

For the purpose of this investigation, compassion was defined as the emotion that individuals feel when they see others suffering, an emotion based on which they act to help the latter, regardless of personal cost or risk, and without expecting rewards. Religious people expect a reward in the afterlife.

This is one of the main critiques associated with the stance organized religion takes on helping others. Believers are encouraged to be generous with those in need by being told that this will help them after death.

Atheists, agnostics and less-religious people help others due to a genuine sense of compassion, without expecting the get into the good graces of God for their effort. They are also not guided by a moral obligation instilled in them by religious leaders, churches and doctrines, but rather by their impulses.

The study results can be interpreted as providing additional evidence that morality, good conduct, compassion and generosity, among other behaviors, do not stem from religion, as many religious and spiritual leaders would have people believe. Rather, they stem from our human nature.

An article written by Tudor Vieru at Softpedia

Highly religious people are less motivated by compassion than are non-believers

Human-ities · Social/Politics

The Gray Box: An investigative look at solitary confinement

A multimedia investigation by Susan Greene at the Dart Society. Their mission is to connect and support journalists worldwide who advance the compassionate and ethical coverage of trauma, conflict and social injustice.

Susan Greene: A few weeks ago, on the fifteenth anniversary of his first day in prison, Osiel Rodriguez set about cleaning the 87 square feet he inhabits at ADX, a federal mass isolation facility in Colorado.

“I got it in my head to destroy all my photographs,” he writes in a letter to me. “I spent some five hours ripping each one to pieces. No one was safe. I did not save one of my mother, father, sisters. Who are those people anyway?”

Such is the logic of the gray box, of sitting year after year in solitude.

Whether Rodriguez had psychological problems when he robbed a bank, burglarized a pawn shop and stole some guns at age 22, or whether mental illness set in during the eight years he has spent in seclusion since trying to walk out of a federal penitentiary in Florida – it’s academic. What’s true now is that he’s sick, literally, of being alone, as are scores of other prisoners in extreme isolation.

Continue HERE

Click bellow to watch the video: