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October 17, 2018 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Training compassion ‘muscle’ may boost brain’s resilience to others’ suffering. "It can be distressing to witness the pain of family, friends or even strangers going through a hard time. But what if, just like strengthening a muscle or learning a new hobby, we could train ourselves to be more compassionate and calm in the face of others’ suffering?" Compassion Is Like a Muscle That Gets Stronger With Training: Loving-kindness meditation and compassion training boost empathic resilience.

Can Video Games Actually Teach Kids Empathy? New Study Says Yes. "Researchers have discovered a video game designed to teach children empathy can change young brains and improve social behavior."

A video game can change the brain, may improve empathy in middle schoolers
posted by homunculus (14 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wonder if some less empathetic people are that way because they simply want to avoid the distress of caring about someone else. It's good that it's a skill or quality that can be trained or improved, I'm sure we all know someone out there who just doesn't give enough of a shit about other beings.

Re the videogame article:
"However, not all kids who played the game demonstrated improvements in behavioral measures of empathic accuracy, but the researchers concluded that may have been because most participants found the game to be quite easy. So, while one size may not fit all in terms of video game teaching tools, there does appear to be potential for video games to positively impact the social awareness of those playing the games."

“The problem isn’t the medium, the problem is the message,” Davidson explained. “If we could get game manufacturers to take this seriously and to design games that cultivate the heart rather than killing people, think about how beneficial that could be for the social and emotional development of kids.”

I think this is a really positive and exciting application of the medium. Videogame seem heavily underutilized, almost exclusively relegated to the role of entertainment, time sinking, and gambling. The educational and social power of games has barely begun to surface. Gamers have spent decades defending violent nonsense left and right, but rarely are the positive potential uses of the medium brought up in those arguments. Yeah, we get it, call of duty didn't turn you into a mass shooter, but maybe it didn't teach you the greatest social behaviours either.

We're a species that can emotionally identify with inanimate objects, can't act like there's no impact on what goes on in a game and a person's psyche.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:06 AM on October 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


Hi, I'm here just to give a shoutout to this amazing post title. Well done! Now going to read the article(s).
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 11:08 AM on October 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


Previously.
posted by homunculus at 11:11 AM on October 17, 2018


I have to admit I did/do not get the post title. I opened the comments twice because for a moment I thought I'd somehow toggled a language change or something. Can I ask what the reference is?
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:12 AM on October 17, 2018


Mettā.
posted by homunculus at 11:14 AM on October 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


Self-shoutout to the MettaFilter Bhavana prayer I wrote on my user page's about section! May all Mefites be truly happy. I like the way compassion is framed here as resilience, rather than simply absorbing others' distress.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 11:37 AM on October 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


“If we could get game manufacturers to take this seriously and to design games that cultivate the heart rather than killing people..."

...then the poor game designers who work for said manufacturers would be hounded into hiding by the frothing rage of their customer base, because capital-G-Gamers don't want such games, and don't want anyone else to get to play them, either.
posted by halation at 11:50 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I don't want to sound excessively cynical, but in its subject matter this falls squarely into the genre of psychological study that ends up getting debunked five to seven years later, but not before it's planted a myth that will live on for a decade or more.

I just don't trust this kind of study any more. Not until there's been tons of replication.
posted by praemunire at 11:57 AM on October 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


It can be distressing to witness the pain of family, friends or even strangers going through a hard time. But what if, just like strengthening a muscle or learning a new hobby, we could train ourselves to be more compassionate and calm in the face of others’ suffering?

really barely matters if the study is replicable until it's redesigned/reported by someone with a grip on what compassion means. if someone else's pain doesn't cause you distress you are not compassionate: you are not 'suffering with' them.

you can still be perfectly nice to them, and it's probably easier to be nice the less involuntary compassion you have, which is sort of what they meant to get at, maybe. having detachment/ice water in your veins is traditionally a big advantage in the helping professions. because deliberate kindness, like the ability to keep a rational grip on yourself, is different and separate from -- though not exclusive of -- empathy and compassion. arguably better in certain circumstances where people need help more than they need to perceive fellow-feeling. but different.

a lot of what they're describing sounds like the desensitization people work to develop in medical school. medical school, if you get through it, makes you extremely well equipped to tolerate and even alleviate human suffering, but it does not make you more compassionate. historically.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:01 PM on October 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


if someone else's pain doesn't cause you distress you are not compassionate: you are not 'suffering with' them.

As someone with a Zen practice, I have to disagree with this. My teacher is extremely compassionate, but she doesn't need to personally take on other people's suffering in order to be that way. The idea that it's not truly compassion unless you're suffering too seems like idiot compassion rather than true compassion.

Imagine a roadside accident, where people are injured. Is somebody running around freaking out at the pain and suffering around them being compassionate or being self-centered? Is somebody who's able to remain calm and detached enough to provide assistance and actually relieve the pain and suffering around them being compassionate or being cold?
posted by Lexica at 5:10 PM on October 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


This is pretty cool. There is a strong movement in medical schools now to re-center the humanism of what it means to witness suffering and to be compelled to act on it. Good to see some neural correlates; reminds me of similar work with reading fiction developing the "empathy muscle."

having detachment/ice water in your veins is traditionally a big advantage in the helping professions
Erm. Not being paralyzed with fear/uncertainty is definitely an advantage in the helping professions, but detachment in the face of human suffering is a maladaptive coping mechanism that leads straight to burnout.
posted by basalganglia at 5:15 PM on October 17, 2018 [4 favorites]




How meditation and psychedelic drugs could fix tribalism. Yes, seriously.

Yeah idk, I do plenty of both and I'm still really, really down for kicking the Nazis of this planet. Because they're Nazis. If they stopped being Nazis, ok. But it's the the Nazi thing that's a problem.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:28 PM on October 31, 2018 [3 favorites]




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