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How mindfulness techniques can ease racism

These findings play a critical role in learning more about the power of mindfulness and how it can be used in society.

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By Georgia Lambert via SWNS

White people trained in mindfulness techniques are three times more likely to help black people, according to new research.

The study, which focused on people’s race-driven decisions to help others, showed that white people who received mindfulness training were three times more likely to help a black person in a staged scenario than those who were not trained.

Previous work in this area revealed that white people are more likely to come to the aid of other white people, which led researchers from California State University San Marcos to discover how training in mindfulness techniques could change the narrative.


The study, which was led by Professor Daniel Berry, is the first of its kind to find that even a small dose of mindfulness - a self-regulation skill that involves focusing on present experiences - can promote helpful behaviors in everyday life.

While previous studies have only tested these questions in constrained lab settings, Professor Berry and his team conducted this research in people’s everyday lives.

The participants, all white people, kept daily diaries, in which they were asked to disclose instances where they had the opportunity to help people over the course of two weeks.

They described whether or not they chose to offer aid, as well as the race of the person that needed help.

The research team then spent time analyzing this data and found that those who had received mindfulness training were more likely than non-trainees to help people regardless of race.

However, it was found that the participants still favored helping other white people.

In the staged scenario experiment, self-identifying white participants were randomly assigned to complete four-day mindfulness meditation training or a placebo meditation training.

The mindfulness trainees were taught focused breathing exercises that rested their attention on the sensations of breathing, thoughts, and the feelings that came to mind.

While those in the placebo group were led to believe that they received real mindfulness meditation training but they completed breathing exercises that did not involve a mindful mindset.

Professor Berry said: “Practicing mindfulness meditation promotes helping behavior in everyday life toward others regardless of the race of the help recipient.

“It is crucial that all participants believed that they were meditating; this allowed us to rule out that the possibility that mindfulness trainees acted more helpful because they thought that is what meditation was supposed to do.”

Before and after the training, the participants were put into staged lab scenarios where they had the chance to help a black person - either to help them pick up a stack of dropped papers or to offer their seat to a person on crutches.

While in the scenarios, the researchers chose not to make the participants aware that their social behaviors were being closely studied.

In the staged scenarios, white people who had received mindfulness meditation training were three times more likely to help a black person in need than a white person who did not receive any training.

Despite this, the same participants were still more likely to help other white people.

Prof Berry said: “The results included two important qualifiers. First, mindfulness training only increased helping behavior among people who were less predisposed to experience mindfulness in daily life.

“Second, participants in both trainings reported helping racial ingroup members more than out-group members.”

The period of helping was measured for a period of two weeks after the training sessions had ended and Professor Berry noted that future research could examine whether mindfulness training could produce a more lasting change in the way we help others.

He went on to explain that these findings play a critical role in learning more about the power of mindfulness and how it can be used in society.

Prof Berry added: “Another potential research direction is asking why mindfulness promotes helping behavior in everyday life.

“Perhaps it is that people are better able to regulate their emotions going into these social interactions.”

The findings were published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal.

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