Can training our brains help make the world a better place? Tania Singer from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences thinks it can. She’s a social neuroscientist and psychologist who says the brain’s plasticity means it can be trained to make us less selfish and more compassionate.
In this video for the World Economic Forum, Professor Singer explains the ReSource project and the exciting results her 1-year longitudinal study on the impact of mental training involving a combination of mindfulness, perspective-taking, and compassion.
The take home messages? First, we can change our brains, our reactions to stress and relationships with others in very specific ways using mental training techniques. Second, the amount of time we spend training does seem to matter. Third, not all mental trainings are created equal - mindfulness meditation alone has a very different impact on the brain than compassion training or training in perspective taking.
NB - it's interesting to note that the mindfulness training involve two core exercises: breathing and a body scan. It's unclear from this presentation how the instruction for these exercises differs from the exercises used in standard Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programs.