Every month, we scour the scientific literature for interesting studies that have practical implications for therapists working with shame, self-criticism, or compassion. Below are a few of our favorites for this month:
A Brief Mindfulness Intervention Makes Compassionate Action More Likely
This is a follow-up to a 2014 Psych Science paper demonstrating that mindfulness training increases compassionate action. In both the 2014 paper and this one, the authors examined whether participants would give up their chair for a person appearing to have an injured leg, and who was in apparent distress. In this new study, the authors again found that mindfulness training increased the probability of giving up the chair, and further found that this change could not be accounted for by increases in empathic accuracy. That is, mindfulness practice did not make people more skilled at reading others' emotions, but it made them act more compassionately nonetheless. Another new contribution beyond the previous study was that the authors used a commercially-available Smartphone program to deliver the intervention, rather than using a Buddhist lama. Finally, this new study used an active control condition instead of a waitlist condition.
Take away: In the authors' words, the findings "point to the potential scalability of meditation as a technique for building a more compassionate society." How cool is that?
Lim, D., Condon, P., & DeSteno, D. (2015). Mindfulness and Compassion: An Examination of Mechanism and Scalability. PLOS ONE.
A New Measure Assessing Self-Compassion and Self-Criticism
A new study just came out examining the psychometrics of a new measure of self-criticism and self-compassion called the Self-Compassion and Self-Criticism Scale (SCCS). In two studies, the SCCS demonstrated good reliability and internal validity. The authors demonstrate how the measure can detect changes in self-compassion and self-criticism following receipt of positive, negative, or no feedback.
Take away: Although the authors did not use a clinical sample, this is a promising new measure that may help to detect state changes is self-compassion and self-criticism.
Falconer, C. J., King, J. A., & Brewin, C. R. (2015). Demonstrating Mood Repair with a Situation-Based Measure of Self-Compassion and Self-Criticism. Psychol Psychother (ahead-of-print) doi: 10.1111/papt.12056.
Self-Compassion Protects Against Negative Effects of Low Self-Esteem
Another new study examined self-esteem, self-compassion, and mental health outcome longitudinally in a sample of ninth-graders over one year. The authors found that low self-esteem predicted negative mental health consequences, but not for adolescents high in self-compassion.
Take away: It's okay if your teen (or your teenage client) has low self-esteem! It helps if they can see their struggles as part of the human condition.
Marshall, S. L., Parker, P. D., Ciarrochi, J., Sahdra, B., Jackson, C. J., & Heaven, P. C. (2015). Self-compassion protects against the negative effects of low self-esteem: A longitudinal study in a large adolescent sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 74, 116-121.