Beyond Mindfulness: A Social Neuroscience Perspective on how to Cultivate Mind and Heart
- Tania Singer
In the last decades, plasticity research in the contemplative and neuro-sciences has suggested that training of mental capacities such as attention, mindfulness, and compassion is effective and leads to changes in brain functions associated with increases in positive affect, pro-social behavior, and better health. I will talk about multiple results of the ReSource Project, a large-scale multi-methodological one-year secular mental training program in which participants were trained in three different modules, focusing on a) attention-based mindfulness, b) compassion and care and c) perspective taking on self and others. I will show differential effects of mindfulness-based as compared to socio-affective and socio-cognitive practices on outcomes such as attention, compassion, Theory of Mind, altruism as well as social stress and autonomic body regulation. One other focus will be the introduction of novel forms of intersubjective mental training formats performed with another partner aiming at boosting social closeness and interconnectedness. I will then critically discuss those findings with regard to their relevance for contemplative neuroscience and society.
Tania Singer is founder and principal investigator of the ReSource project, a large-scale longitudinal study on the effects of meditation and mental training on brain plasticity, mental and physical wellbeing and prosocial behavior, co-financed by the European Research Council. She further holds a cooperation with Prof. Dennis Snower from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy on the topic of “Caring Economics”. In the context of her long–time membership at the Mind and Life Institute, she helped organize together with Matthieu Ricard two large-scale conferences with the Dalai Lama in 2010 in Zürich and in 2016 in Brussels. These two conferences were published in two books, “Caring Economics” and “Power and Care”. Tania has further published her findings in more than 150 high-impact peer-reviewed journals and book chapters.