Meditation and Its Effects on Social Understanding

Carolynn Bructo, Rachel Freshwater, Kaillee Philleo, and Carly Schepacarter (Advisor: Danielle Findley-Van Nostrand)

Background Information

We know from previous research that meditation can provide positive outcomes for the individual, such as more prosocial behaviors, but can separate forms of meditation impact our self-reported feelings of compassion, self-compassion, and self-efficacy (Condon et al., 2013)?  We wanted to test this theory with mindfulness meditation that focused on the self, and compassion meditation intended to focus on others. Additionally, a large body of work recognizes the impact of meditation in longitudinal studies but lacks work on more immediate influences of meditation behavior. Through this research, our goal was to address the connection between different types of meditation performed the same day on various self-report scales about understanding the self and reacting to other people. We believed that participants who were asked to perform compassion meditation would report higher levels of compassion than those in the mindfulness meditation and control groups. We also believed that participants who performed mindfulness meditation would report higher levels of self-compassion and self-efficacy than the compassion meditation and control groups.


113 participants were recruited through Roanoke College’s SONA system in the psychology department and received 1 SONA credit for participating in all parts of the study. Participants then completed a survey in which they were randomly assigned into a group to practice compassion meditation, mindfulness meditation, or listen to a set of random facts for a control group. All of these presented as videos with a dark screen and were three minutes long. All participants then completed questionnaires to test their self-efficacy, compassion, state and trait-based self-compassion, and demographics following their interaction with the videos.

Results and Discussion

The compassion measure proved to be the only statistically significant result of the research. Participants who completed the mindfulness meditation had higher reported levels of compassion than the control group. This may have been true because the mindfulness video encouraged participants to be aware of how they were feeling in the moment, which could have led participants to feel more benefits of meditation than the compassion meditation video, which encouraged a bit more introspection and thoughts of less positive things. When we feel positive, we feel more likely to give, which could have led to this result. We attribute this to our inability to have face-to-face sessions and for experimenters to monitor the behaviors of participants while they were instructed to engage in the various types of meditation. Our meditation conditions did not seem to have an effect on compassion towards self and self-efficacy. Contrary to our expectations, the compassion meditation condition, specifically, did not have any effect on compassion towards others either. These results could indicate that a brief, isolated exposure may not be enough to see the results of increased compassion towards self and others, and self-efficacy.


The biggest takeaway is that we likely were unable to find research initially about this topic because there are not strong effects between short-term meditation and social understanding. While instant meditation may quickly reduce stress, compassion (leading to prosocial behaviors) may take time to develop. That being said, our findings were based on a short-term study as well as one specific sample and should be further investigated among larger and more broad sample size. Through this process we learned how to think like researchers, quickly complete a comprehensive literature review, design and carry out a research study, and critically interpret statistical results. We also were able to implement writing strategies and effectively work in a group setting to apply our research knowledge learned throughout the psychology program.  


The main finding from our study suggests that college students’ use of a short mindfulness meditation had higher levels of compassion towards others than those in a control group. Those who completed a compassion meditation did not significantly impact their compassion towards others, self-compassion, or self-efficacy.


Condon, P., Desbordes, G., Miller, W., & DeSteno, D. (2013). Meditation Increases

Compassionate Responses to Suffering. Psychological Science, 24(10), 2125-2127. Retrieved February 24, 2021, from




Get Connected!

Twitter: @RC_Psychology
Linked In:
Instagram: rcpsychology