Measuring loving kindness-compassion

To what extent can loving kindness and compassion be reliably measured?

Title: The development and validation of the Lovingkindness-Compassion Scale (LCS)

Author: Hyunju Cho, Seunghye Noh, Sunghyun Park, Seokjin Ryu, Ven Misan and Jong-Sun Lee

Year: 2017 (online), 2018 (print)

Summary: The thorny issue of effective trait and state scales for both loving-kindness and compassion is far from resolved in psychology. In fact if anything it is less clear now than it was a decade ago. One of the problems can be attributed to attempts to merge or unify concepts with subtle differences and specific cultural weighing factors. This paper explains some of the express differences between compassion and loving kindness from a classical perspective. And the justification for drawing them together is found in the ‘boundless state of mind’. However, it is reasonable to ask in what way can the unlimited nature of mind be evaluated using limited psychometric measures? To what extent the LCS can align two distinct concepts in one scale will emerge over time.

The three reported highlights of the paper were

  • The LCS reflects the Buddhist concept of lovingkindness-compassion.
  • The LCS consists of three-factor with fifteen items.
  • The reliability and validity of LCS were adequate within our study.

This study was based on the definitions of compassion within a branch(es) of the Theravada tradition. So it should be stated at the outset the precise meanings established as a starting point may not reflect the whole family of Buddhism. This is not to say that other Buddhist schools (Zen, Mahayana or Vajrayana) might not wholly or partially share the definitions used. Simply that the definitions may not be representative of the wider Buddhist community. It should also be noted that the measures therefore may not reflect the explicit, not dual and absolute compassionate approaches found elsewhere in the Buddha Dharma.

Nevertheless, this paper established fifteen items within three factors through the use of exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). The results suggest that LCS was significantly correlated with self-compassion, compassionate love, social connectedness, empathy and satisfaction with life. This study used 469 university students as participants and the data supports the reliability and validity of the LCS to measure lovingkindness-compassion.

An extremely useful investigation into compassion and loving-kindness raises several important questions.

Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019188691730733X

Loving-kindness Meditation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot Study

What is the effect of loving kindness meditation for post traumatic stress disorder

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Authors: Kearney DJ, Malte CA, McManus C, Martinez ME, Felleman B, Simpson TL.

Year: 2013

Title: Loving-kindness Meditation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot Study

Summary: A trial of loving kindness meditation was undertaken with veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participants were given 12 weeks training in loving-kindness meditation and measured for PTSD, depression, self-compassion, and mindfulness at different stages. The effects of this pilot demonstrated a range of benefits for participants from the meditation and concluded that the practice was both “safe” and “acceptable”. A pilot study but really strong participant attendance (74% involved in 9 to 12 classes) and fascinating results:

  • self-compassion increased with large effect
  • mindfulness increased with medium to large effect
  • PSTD symptoms subject to a large effect at 3-month follow-up (d = -0.89)
  • depression  subject to a medium effect at 3 months

Perspective: Health psychology, positive psychology, clinical psychology

Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23893519

Effects of Mindful-attention and Compassion Meditation Training on Amygdala Response to Emotional Stimuli in an Ordinary, Non-meditative State

Authors: Gaëlle Desbordes, Lobsang T. Negi, Thaddeus W. W. Pace, B. Alan Wallace, Charles L. Raison and Eric L. Schwartz

Year: 2012

Title: Effects of Mindful-attention and Compassion Meditation Training on Amygdala Response to Emotional Stimuli in an Ordinary, Non-meditative State

Summary: There is a long standing association between the amygdala and emotional processing. Previous research has indicated that in a meditative state amygdala response to emotional stimuli could be reduced. However this investigation points to the possibility that the effect of meditation training on emotional processing may exert an influence beyond the meditative-state. Participants were given training in either Mindful Attention Training (MAT) or Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT).

Perspective: Neuroscience

Link: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292/full

Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise

Authors: Antoine Lutz, Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, Tom Johnstone, Richard J. Davidson

Year: 2008

Title: Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise

Summary: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) investigation of the insula and anterior cingulate cortices in empathic response during loving-kindness, compassionate meditation. The contrast between rest and meditation states indicated increased activation in amygdala, right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), and right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS). The findings when taken in their entirety suggests the cultivation of positive emotional states through meditation creates changes to the activation of circuitries  linked to empathy and theory of mind in response to emotional stimuli.

Perspective: Neuroscience

Link: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0001897