A recent study that focused on compassion found that meditation can actually boost a person’s ability to read other people’s facial expressions.
Lead author Jennifer Mascaro of Emory University in the US state of Georgia stated, “It’s an intriguing result, suggesting that a behavioral intervention could enhance a key aspect of empathy.”
The New York Daily News goes on to report that the meditation program called Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, developed by Lobsang Tenzin Negi, was directly taken from Tibetan Buddhist practices. This training has been shown to activate regions in the brain that help us be more empathetic.
The results were based off fMRI brain scans of participants while completing a version of a facial expression test called the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), which consists of black-and-white photographs that feature only the eyes of people making various expressions.
The meditation group showed much improvement on their Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) over the control group after their mediation practice sessions.
“The idea is that the feelings we have about people can be trained in optimal ways. CBCT aims to condition one’s mind to recognize how we are all inter-dependent, and that everybody desires to be happy and free from suffering at a deep level,” Negi purported.
In a similar article by Science Daily meditation improved emotional behaviors in teachers. The findings suggest that schoolteachers who underwent a short but intensive program of meditation were less depressed, anxious or stressed — and more compassionate and aware of others’ feelings,.
“The findings suggest that increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behavior…The study is particularly important because opportunities for reflection and contemplation seem to be fading in our fast-paced, technology-driven culture,” said lead author Margaret Kemeny, PhD, director of the Health Psychology Program in UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry.
Do you have any experience with meditation? How about some meditation tips?
Share them with the Humintell Community
Can brain scans show when someone is lying?
This debate is taking place right now between Gary Smith, who says he didn’t kill his roommate and Montgomery County prosecutors, who say otherwise.
According to an article in the Washington Post, some of the nation’s leading neuroscientists, who are using the same technology to study Alzheimer’s disease and memory, say MRI brain scans also can show — at least in the low-stakes environment of a laboratory — when someone is being deceptive.
However, many experts doubt whether the technology is ready for the real world, and judges have kept it out of the courtroom.
In a previous blog post we talked about some of the physiological factors of lying and fMRI scans.
What do you think?
Do you think brain scans should be admissible in court as a reliable sign of if someone is telling the truth or not? Do you think this technology is too good to be true?
Recent research published online in the journal Chemosensory Perception suggests that anxious men have a heightened sense of smell, presumably to detect predators or disease-carriers.
The study entitled Enhanced Olfactory Sensory Perception of Threat in Anxiety: An Event-Related fMRI Study tested 14 mens’ perception of odors, including bad ones. In some trials, the men were in an MRI scanner, and odors were faint.
According to Scientific American, participants were simply asked if they could detect a scent, yes or no. In addition, the subjects were also tested for anxiety: their breathing and skin electrical conductivity were measured, as in a lie detector.
The results? More anxious men were significantly better at detecting lower concentrations of scents, particularly nasty ones. This suggests that anxiety evolved as an evolutionary trait to protect humans from predators.
What do you think about the results of this study? Do you think the findings make logical sense?
How different are our cultural stress coping mechanisms and are they working?
The American Psychological Association, APA reports that according to UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman, Ph.D., the idea that putting problems into words will ease the emotional impact of those problems even across cultures.
Lieberman took this idea a step further, in 2003, by investigating it with the latest brain imaging technology (fMRIs). “There’s this idea that putting bad feelings into words can help wash worries away,” he purported.
Lieberman and his colleagues found that social rejection activates a part of the brain that is also stimulated in response to physical pain.
Interestingly, they also found that people who had relatively less activity in that area-and who reported feeling relatively less distress-had more activity in the right ventral lateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with verbalizing thoughts and language production.
Their study’s results which were published in Science suggest that “talking it out” can help ease a person’s emotional response to tough situations by suppressing the area of the brain that produces emotional distress.
I can almost hear groans of guys across the world who fear the words “we need to talk” but who will no longer be able to say “Nothing will come of it, or “talking never solves anything”.
On a more recent note, Lieberman and his colleagues conducted another study that will be published in Psychological Science that tests this hypothesis more directly.
They asked 30 participants to view pictures of angry, scared or happy-looking faces. Half of the time the participants tried to match the target face to another picture of a face with a similar expression. The other half of the time, they tried to match the face to a word that correctly labeled its emotion.
Using fMRI, the researchers discovered that when the participants labeled the faces’ emotions using words, they showed less activity in the amygdala-an area of the brain associated with emotional distress. At the same time, they showed more activity in the right ventral lateral prefrontal cortex-the same language-related area that showed up in their previous study.
This is further evidence that verbalizing an emotion may activate the right ventral lateral prefrontal cortex, which then suppresses the areas of the brain that produce emotional pain.
What are your thoughts on this study? Does “talking it out” really help the emotional impact of a problem?
If it is someone we are close to, then we likely already have their base line personality/characteristics and can detect (even if we are not always aware of it) when they verge from those characteristics telling us that something is off.
Most people do this daily with their kids, spouses and close friends. This is why many moms just “know” when their children are not being truthful.
Besides having a good baseline there are other factors that can help us recognize when someone is trying to hide something or conceal certain information. These factors are micro and subtle facial expressions.
But, what exactly does the human body do when a person is being deceptive?
How can we accurately gauge a person’s deception. For years, we have used psychological markers such as heart rate, perspiration and general anxiety to measure deception, but with advanced technology we are now focusing on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to delineate how our bodies react to the act of lying.
fMRI’s measure the cell activity of the brain by tracking blood flow. This new concept “shows” when a person lies by highlighting the changes in their brain activity.
We have blogged on the importance and relevance of fMRI’s in the past. Scienceline.org has recently added to the commentary on this technology. They state that Joel Huizenga, the CEO of No Lie MRI claims that his fMRI machines are able to “detect deception” with 90-99% accuracy.
“If this technology was accepted, people would have to stop telling lies,” Huizenga affirms. fMRI’s have revealed a lot of new, exciting, and useful information that was previously unattainable. However, the research is still preliminary and many scientists believe that even with this technology we still don’t understand how the brain processes many things.
Steven Hsiao, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University and one such specialist verifies, “The more complex those aspects of perception and cognition, the more difficult it is to isolate them.”
Huizenga believes that it is a money issue and not the science offered up by fMRI’s that keeps this research from being widely used and accepted as deception detection technology. He states,
“There is huge opposition to this. It’s because people are fearful of the government sticking their heads into an MRI and asking if they paid their taxes. They don’t even want people to know that anyone’s heard of it. People want to be able to lie.”
What is your opinion of Huizenga’s perspective on the fMRI?
Do you believe it is just a matter of money and not the scientific results that keep the fMRI from being a scientifically accepted deception detection method?