Differential Effects of Attention-, Compassion-, and Socio-Cognitively Based Mental Practices on Self-Reports of Mindfulness and Compassion.

Author: Hildebrandt LK1,2, McCall C1,3, Singer T1
1Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstraße 1a, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
2Department of Psychology, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.
3Department of Psychology, University of York, York, UK.
Conference/Journal: Mindfulness (N Y).
Date published: 2017
Other: Volume ID: 8 , Issue ID: 6 , Pages: 1488-1512 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s12671-017-0716-z. Epub 2017 Apr 6. , Word Count: 251

Research on the effects of mindfulness- and compassion-based interventions is flourishing along with self-report scales to assess facets of these broad concepts. However, debates remain as to which mental practices are most appropriate to develop the attentional, cognitive, and socio-affective facets of mindfulness and compassion. One crucial question is whether present-moment, attention-focused mindfulness practices are sufficient to induce a cascade of changes across the different proposed facets of mindfulness, including nonjudgmental acceptance, as well as compassion or whether explicit socio-affective training is required. Here, we address these questions in the context of a 9-month longitudinal study (the ReSource Project) by examining the differential effects of three different 3-month mental training modules on subscales of mindfulness and compassion questionnaires. The "Presence" module, which aimed at cultivating present-moment-focused attention and body awareness, led to increases in the observing, nonreacting, and presence subscales, but not to increases in acceptance or nonjudging. These latter facets benefitted from specific cultivation through the socio-cognitive "Perspective" module and socio-affective, compassion-based "Affect" module, respectively. These modules also led to further increases in scores on the subscales affected by the Presence module. Moreover, scores on the compassion scales were uniquely influenced by the Affect module. Thus, whereas a present-moment attention-focused training, as implemented in many mindfulness-based programs, was indeed able to increase attentional facets of mindfulness, only socio-cognitive and compassion-based practices led to broad changes in ethical-motivational qualities like a nonjudgmental attitude, compassion, and self-compassion.

KEYWORDS: Compassion; Longitudinal design; Mindfulness; Questionnaires; Self-compassion

PMID: 29201246 PMCID: PMC5693975 DOI: 10.1007/s12671-017-0716-z