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Abstract

In interracial and other intergroup interactions, prosocial emotions and actions are often undermined (Cikara & van Bavel, 2014). Perceiving psychological separateness between “us” and “them” – which is often an automatic, unintentional process – is psychological kindling for lower prosocial responsiveness that leads to prejudice, discrimination, aggressive conflict (Cikara, 2015). Recent research has shown that mindfulness, an open and unconditional attention to one’s present experiences, is associated with decreased automaticity and racial bias (Kang, Gruber, & Gray, 2013; Lueke & Gibson, 2014), barriers that hinder prosocial responsiveness (Trautwien, Schmidt, & Naranjo, 2014). Two experiments investigated whether brief mindfulness training promoted prosocial responsiveness toward an ostracized person of another race. Before witnessing a person of another race being excluded in an online ball-tossing game (Cyberball), participants in both studies were randomized to either an audio-recorded mindfulness training (MT), a structurally-equivalent attention control training (CT), or a no instruction control (NT). MI participants in Study 1 (N=124) showed trends towards higher empathic concern (p=.065), while MI participants in Study 2 (N=131) reported higher empathic concern for the excluded player (p<0.05). MI participants in both studies wrote more comforting emails to them (p<0.01), as coded for prosociality (c.f., Masten et al., 2011). Only in Study 2 did MI participants passed the ball more to the victim in an ‘all play’ game (p<.05), presumably because their identity was less “known” than in Study 1; specifically, players’ photo images were loaded into the game in Study 1, but only first names were shared in Study 2. These studies underscore the potential for mindfulness training to foster sensitive attitudes across social and cultural lines within increasingly growing anonymous (i.e., online) contexts.

Publication Date

2016

Subject Major(s)

Psychology

Keywords

Mindfulness, Empathic Concern, Prosocial Behavior, Helping, interracial interaction, ostracism

Disciplines

Social Psychology

Current Academic Year

Senior

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Daniel R. Berry

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Kirk W. Brown

Rights

© The Author(s)

Promoting Prosocial Responsiveness across Racial Divides through Mindfulness

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