A new study has shown that people who consider themselves interdependent improve their prosocial behavior following mindfulness practice. Those who view themselves as independent, however, have decreased prosocial behavior.

The study, which is available as a preprint and is due for publication in the journal Psychological Science, suggests that mindfulness is a tool that can be put to different effects depending on the context.

Mindfulness

In 1994, Prof. Jon Kabat-Zinn described mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Researchers have shown that mindfulness can alleviate stress, increase hope and reduce negative emotions, and strengthen a person’s sense of well-being.

Some research has found that mindfulness can improve a person’s prosocial behavior, that is, the extent to which they act on behalf of others. However, other research has found that this is less clear.

The authors of the present study note that mindfulness can be understood as increasing a person’s self-awareness.

While some researchers have understood mindfulness as reducing a person’s sense of ego, others have found that it increases self-referential processing.

As a consequence, the study authors suggest mindfulness may amplify a person’s preexisting “self-construal,” which can be understood as being either interdependent or independent.

A person with an interdependent self-construal will see themselves in relation to others, be it close friends or family or a group they perceive themselves to be a part of.

In contrast, a person with an independent self-construal will understand themselves on their own terms, separate from others.

The authors of the present study suggest that people with an independent self-construal will have this amplified by mindfulness and be less likely to act on behalf of others.

Conversely, they expected mindfulness to increase prosocial behavior for people with an interdependent self-construal.

Medical reference: Medical News Today