作者: Emma Young/BPS / 4790次阅读 时间: 2017年6月06日
来源: 陈明 译 标签: 共情 正念 自恋
Brief mindfulness training does not foster empathy, and can even make narcissists worse
Emma Young
陈明 译

Sharing with others, helping people in need, consoling those who are distressed. All these behaviours can be encouraged by empathy – by understanding what other people are thinking and feeling, and sharing their emotions. Enhance empathy, especially in those who tend to have problems with it – like narcissists – and society as a whole might benefit. So how can it be done?

与他人分享 、帮助那些需要帮助的人,安慰那些痛苦的人。所有这些行为都可以通过共情来促进之——理解别人的想法和感受,分享他们的情感,通过这样方法的鼓励他。增强共情能力,尤其是那些往往有问题的人——例如自恋者——整个社会都可能受益。那怎么办呢?

In fact, the cultivation of empathy is a “presumed benefit” of mindfulness training, note the authors of a new study, published in Self and Identity, designed to investigate this experimentally. People who are “mindfully aware” focus on the present moment, without judgement. So, it’s been argued, they should be better able to resist getting caught up in their own thoughts, freeing them to think more about the mental states of other people. As mindfulness courses are increasingly being offered in schools and workplaces, as well as in mental health settings, it’s important to know what such training can and can’t achieve. The new results suggest it won’t foster empathy – and, worse, it could even backfire.


Anna Ridderinkhof, at the University of Amsterdam, and her colleagues divided 161 adult volunteers in three groups. Each completed questionnaires assessing their levels of narcissistic and also autistic traits. It’s already known that people who score highly on narcissism (who feel superior to others, believe they are entitled to privileges and want to be admired) tend to experience less “affective empathy”. They aren’t as likely to share the emotional state of another person. People who score highly on autistic traits have no problem with affective empathy, but tend to show impairments in “cognitive empathy”. They find it harder to work out what other people are feeling.

阿姆斯特丹大学的Anna Ridderinkhof和她的同事们将161个成年志愿者分成三组。每个人完成一份评估他们自恋水平和自闭症特征的问卷。人们已经认识到,自恋的人(他们认为自己高人一等,认为自己享有特权,并希望得到他人的仰慕)往往有更少的“情感共情”体验。他们不太可能分享另一个人的情绪状态。高自闭症特质的人在情感共情方面没有问题,但在“认知共情”上表现出障碍。他们觉得自己很难理解别人的感受。

One group spent five minutes in a guided mindfulness meditation, in which they were encouraged to focus on the physical sensations of breathing, while observing any thoughts, without judging them. The second group took part in a relaxation exercise (so any effects of stress relief alone could be examined). People in the control group were invited to let their minds wander, and to be immersed in their thoughts and feelings.


After these exercises, the researchers tested the volunteers’ propensity to feel cognitive empathy, via the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, which involves identifying emotions from photographs of people’s eyes, and they also tested their affective empathy, by analysing how much emotional concern they showed toward a player who was socially rejected in a ball game.


There is some debate about whether a greater capacity for empathy would be helpful for most people. Some researchers, such as Professor Tania Singer, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, even suggest that an “excess” of empathy explains what’s often termed “burnout” in members of caring professions, such as nurses. But Ridderinkhof’s team predicted that mindfulness training would improve empathy in the volunteers who needed it most: in people with high levels of autistic or narcissistic traits.

更多的共情能力是否对于大多数人而言有帮助,关于这个问题,依然有些争论。一些学者,如,莱比锡马克斯普朗克人类认知和大脑科学研究所的主任Tania Singer教授,甚至认为“过多”的共情解释了像护士这种专业人员为什么通常会出现被称为“职业倦怠”的现象。但Ridderinkhof的团队预测,正念训练可以在那些最需要它的志愿者中提高共情能力:他们是高自闭或高自恋人群。

It didn’t. While there was no overall effect on empathy in the mindfulness group, further analysis revealed that, compared with the control and relaxation groups combined, non-narcissists who completed the mindfulness exercise did show a slight improvement specifically in cognitive empathy, but for narcissistic people, their cognitive empathy was actually reduced. For the people who scored highly on autistic traits, meanwhile, there was no effect on mind-reading accuracy, though there were intriguing signs of greater prosocial behaviour, indicated by an increase in the number of passes of the ball to socially excluded individuals.

虽然正念小组没有对共情产生整体影响,但进一步的分析显示,与控制组和放松组相比,完成正念运动的非自恋者显示了略微的改变,尤其在认知共情方面,但对于自恋的人,他们的认知共情实际上是变弱了。对于那些自闭症特征得分较高的人来说,与此同时,对心智阅读的准确性也没有影响,虽然在亲社会行为中的有趣的迹象表明,给予社会排斥的人的传球次数 增加了。

Since volunteers were encouraged not to judge any thoughts they had during the mindfulness meditation, this might indeed have helped non-narcissists let go of self-critical thoughts, allowing them to think more about the mental states of others, the researchers suggest. “By contrast, it may have ironically ‘licensed’ narcissistic individuals to focus more exclusively on their self-aggrandising thoughts.” As a result, they may have thought even less about the mental states of others.


Critics may argue that a single five-minute mindfulness meditation exercise is simply not enough, and that improvements in empathy – in non-narcissists, at least – might perhaps show up with longer sessions. While the research team thinks this is worth exploring, there is evidence from earlier studies (that lacked a proper control group) that five-minute sessions can increase accuracy on a mind-reading test, for example. It was reasonable to opt for a brief session in this study, they argue.


Future research might also investigate whether alternative approaches – perhaps training the related concept of “compassion” (which involves “feeling for” rather than “feeling with” a person in psychological pain, and is advocated by Singer) might help narcissists behave more pro-socially.




TAG: 共情 正念 自恋
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