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These initial findings suggest that specific prosocial behaviours might indeed be malleable through contemplative mental training.Crucially, both mental training and human prosociality are complex and heterogeneous constructs.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.
To systematically address if, how, and to what degree prosocial behaviour is enhanced by mental training, we need to investigate the specific effects of different types of trainings on distinct facets of human prosociality.
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.
Specifically, the Re Source Project implemented three mental training modules: Presence focusing on the cultivation of present-moment attention and interoceptive awareness (practices included in most mindfulness-based intervention programs); and Perspective aiming at increasing socio-cognitive skills such as perspective taking on self and others as well as meta-cognitive awareness (for details about scientific and contemplative background see).
Figure 2 depicts the training schedule and respective exercises.
But to demonstrate that signaling theory is part of the answer, it's not enough to prove that people who engage in religious acts also engage in prosocial behavior -- you also have to show that others in the community get the message. Power spent two years living in a pair of Tamil villages in southern India studying the question.