Scientists Measure Compassion Levels During Loving-Kindness Meditation
Academics from the psychology departments at three universities in South Korea have produced a scale to measure loving-kindness and compassion -- two of Buddhism's four immeasurables, or brahmaviharas.
Loving-kindness (fondness or goodwill for oneself and others) and compassion (empathetic care for someone who's suffering, and motivation to assist them) are brought together in the analysis as one quality.
For the analysis, published in the April issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences, investigators interviewed two monks and three priests from the Theravada tradition to make a definition of loving-kindness compassion, they identify as being touched by a person's suffering, wanting to assist them and wishing them joy.
Researchers then divide the scale to subsections which include self-compassion, compassionate love, social connectedness, empathy, and satisfaction with life.
During the analysis, 469 psychology students were asked to indicate how much they identified with each item from a scale of one (not at all true for me personally ) to five (very accurate for me personally ). From the results, the investigators deduced three general factors of loving-kindness compassion: loving-kindness, compassion, and self-centeredness.
Hyunju Cho, among the authors of this research, states self-centeredness is essential for comprehending loving-kindness compassion since it's the opposite of universality -- the notion that all things are linked.
"People in competitive society want to get more things than others, like money and social status," says Cho. "We easily have a tendency to be self-centered. Therefore, understanding self-centeredness is important to initiate the mindset of loving-kindness compassion via practicing loving-kindness and compassion meditation."
Researchers expect the Loving-kindness Compassion Scale helps individuals see loving-kindness and empathy as strategies to analyze our link with other people.
The investigators acknowledge that the analysis has many limitations. Mainly, all 469 participants were based in South Korea, where there's a strong culture of interdependence, possibly impacting the participants' perspective on universality and other aspects of loving-kindness compassion.
The scale aligns with a 2008 research, from Fort Lewis College, in Colorado, which suggests it's possible to quantify each of four immeasurables (loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and acceptance of self and others). That research concluded that practicing loving-kindness and compassion meditation may boost social connectedness and enhance the neural systems that influence empathy.