Celebration of compassion: Unique multimedia eBook presents scientists', practitioners', and therapists' experiences

Compassion training promotes social closeness, according to Max Planck director Tania Singer. Credit: MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Questions about the difference between empathy and compassion, or about whether compassion can be learned, are now answered by a newly published eBook. Edited by Tania Singer and Matthias Bolz from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, the book also explains how mental training transforms the human brain, and that compassion can reduce pain.

The eBook Compassion: Bridging Practice and Science has just been published and can be downloaded free of charge. It summarises fascinating results of the science of compassion, but also describes training programmes and . The book thus provides not only a unique overview of current research into empathy and compassion, but also offers an exciting way of approaching the topic for interested readers—including useful advice for everyday life.

A major part of the eBook concerns the science of compassion. Tania Singer, director of the Department of Social Neuroscience, shows how empathy differs from compassion. In a recent study, she was able to show empirically that empathy—the ability to recognize emotions experienced by others—and compassion are supported by different and neuronal networks. In other chapters, researchers from Singer's department explain how meditation-based compassion practices can reduce pain, and how compassion training can promote positive emotions and social closeness, which in turn can improve mental and . In another chapter, the Charles Raison describes how compassion training can lead to a decrease in stress-related hormones such as . "With our research, and with this book, we hope to raise awareness of compassion in our society, and to support the development of a more caring and which recognizes the importance of secular ethics and the interdependence of all beings", Singer emphasises.

Moreover, scientifically validated compassion training programmes are introduced for the first time, and expert users describe their experiences with some of these in schools, therapy, or end-of-life care situations. These reports provide interesting, enlightening, but also touch-ing insights into the everyday-life effects of compassion training. One chapter, for example, shows how compassion training gains increasing significance for clinical staff—not only for their interactions with terminally ill or dying patients, but also for their processing of daily events, thus helping to prevent burnout-related illnesses among physicians and caretakers.

The book also provides theories and concepts of compassion from different perspectives. Paul Gilbert presents an evolutionary model of compassion, which argues that compassion is deeply rooted in our caring system. From a cognitive neuroscientific point of view, compassion is based on attentional, cognitive, and socio-affective processes, each of which draws on specific . The book also offers a Buddhist perspective on compassion, which insists compassion must begin with the move from self- to other-centredness.

The eBook has evolved from a successful workshop, How to Train Compassion, which was organised by Singer's department in artist Olafur Eliasson's studio in Berlin back in 2011. After the event, participants all agreed that the topics shared and discussed at the workshop should be made accessible to a wider range of people. Thus, with the support of the Max Planck Society, the eBook was produced—offering its readers many videos from the workshop, sound art collages by Nathalie Singer, as well as impressive pieces of visual art by Olafur Eliasson.

More information: The eBook can be downloaded free of charge at: www.compassion-training.org

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brain can be trained in compassion, study shows

May 22, 2013

Until now, little was scientifically known about the human potential to cultivate compassion—the emotional state of caring for people who are suffering in a way that motivates altruistic behavior.

Power of meditation in response to stress: new study

Oct 19, 2010

A study is under way at Emory University testing the value of meditation in helping people cope with stress. The Compassion and Attention Longitudinal Meditation Study (CALM) will help scientists determine how pe ...

Can meditation make you a more compassionate person?

Apr 01, 2013

Scientists have mostly focused on the benefits of meditation for the brain and the body, but a recent study by Northeastern University's David DeSteno, published in Psychological Science, takes a look at what impacts medita ...

Recommended for you

Inside the teenage brain: New studies explain risky behavior

54 minutes ago

It's common knowledge that teenage boys seem predisposed to risky behaviors. Now, a series of new studies is shedding light on specific brain mechanisms that help to explain what might be going on inside juvenile male brains.

Conflicts with teachers are risk factor for school shootings

3 hours ago

As part of the TARGET project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, researchers at Freie Universität Berlin conducted a systematic literature search of all the available studies dealing with school ...

User comments