NU prof in NYTimes: Can meditation teach manners?

Update 7/18 :The folks at WGBH’s Boston Public Radio took calls after an interview with David DeSteno, the author of this meditation study. Note:  Jim Braude does not mediate: his co-host Margery Eagan does.

7/7: This piece in the NYTimes magazine, “The Morality of Meditation” is of interest for two reasons. It was written David DeSteno is a professor of psychology at Boston’s Northeastern University. And, this reporter has spent the past five weeks in a brace and on crutches with a fractured tibia plateau — top of the shin bone. Anecdotally, that 16 percent of people would give up a seat for a person on crutches seems about right.

bll-leg-pix-web Buddha: “I teach one thing and one only: that is, suffering and the end of suffering.” For Buddha, as for many modern spiritual leaders, the goal of meditation was as simple as that….

Here’s how they tested that concept:

When a participant entered the waiting area for our lab, he (or she) found three chairs, two of which were already occupied. Naturally, he sat in the remaining chair. As he waited, a fourth person, using crutches and wearing a boot for a broken foot, entered the room and audibly sighed in pain as she leaned uncomfortably against a wall. The other two people in the room — who, like the woman on crutches, secretly worked for us — ignored the woman, thus confronting the participant with a moral quandary. Would he act compassionately, giving up his chair for her, or selfishly ignore her plight?

The results were striking. Although only 16 percent of the nonmeditators gave up their seats — an admittedly disheartening fact — the proportion rose to 50 percent among those who had meditated.


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