A meta-analysis of meditation studies has shown that their authors often unconsciously distort the results of experiments “in favor” of concentration practice.
An international group of psychologists has studied how meditation practices affect prosocial behavior-a behavior that is oriented toward the benefit of other people and society as a whole. It turned out that meditation can enhance the ability to empathize, but does not help to reduce the level of aggression, as well as the level of prejudice towards certain social groups. In addition, it turned out that many authors of studies on meditation can unconsciously distort the results of experiments.
In 2010 there were many studies of meditation. Most of the work is devoted to the influence of practice on the meditator himself – on his level of anxiety, reaction to stress and health. The work on how meditation affects the relationship between a person and others is less, although meditation is often spoken of as a way to become more benevolent towards others.
The researchers studied 22 randomized controlled trials. In these works, the authors compared regularly meditating people to a control group that does not practice meditation. In the experiments, secular practices based on various Buddhist techniques, including meditation of mindfulness (meditation) and meditation of “lovingkindness meditation” were used. Scientists have identified five characteristics of social behavior described in the works: compassion, empathy, aggression, prejudice and social involvement (social connectivity, quantity and quality of social ties).
According to studies, meditation increased the propensity for empathy and compassion, but was not reflected in the level of aggression, prejudice and involvement in society. Then psychologists found that in studies of the ability to compassion there is a regularity: meditation helped to develop this ability better, if one of the authors of the work taught the course of meditation technique to participants. Whether there is the same effect in works on empathy, it is not known – in many of them there are no details about who was the teacher. Researchers believe that the authors-teachers could, without understanding it, distort the results of experiments.
Psychologists do not deny the positive effect of meditation, but stress: in the studies of this problem, more stringent criteria are needed.