Motivating Engagement with Social Justice Issues through Compassion Training: A Multi-Method Randomized Control Trial

Last registered on February 07, 2019

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Motivating Engagement with Social Justice Issues through Compassion Training: A Multi-Method Randomized Control Trial
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003828
Initial registration date
February 06, 2019
Last updated
February 07, 2019, 3:52 AM EST

Locations

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
Pennsylvania State University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2019-02-10
End date
2019-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
As the racial and political polarizations deepen across the country and around the globe, we face many complex social justice issues requiring difficult intergroup dialogue. To address such polarization productively, members from all sides need to practice empathic understanding and compassion towards out-group members, even in the face of challenging emotions surrounding social justice issues. Yet, empathic and behavioral engagement in the context of social justice issues is emotionally and cognitively demanding, and thus is often avoided. It is, however, possible to offset high costs/demands of social justice situations and motivate an approach-oriented response by increasing resources, namely social resources. Meditation trainings that cultivate compassion (a warm feeling for the suffering of others with the motivation to help) have been shown to expand social resources by increasing perceived social connection. This study investigates (1) the effect of a two-week compassion training (vs. active control) on White participants’ prosocial engagement (i.e., outgroup empathy, approach/avoidance physiology, willingness to engage in social justice dialogue, and helping behavior) in a situation where social disparity issue is highlighted; and (2) whether such effects occur through an expansion of perceived social resources. Participants’ prosocial engagement and perceived social resources will be measured before and after training in a novel laboratory paradigm involving behavioral,
physiological, and self-report assessments of prosocial engagement. This work will have important practical and theoretical implications by advancing our understanding of the processes through which compassion training shapes prosocial outcomes in a social justice context that is highly relevant to today’s society.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Cho, Sinhae. 2019. "Motivating Engagement with Social Justice Issues through Compassion Training: A Multi-Method Randomized Control Trial." AEA RCT Registry. February 07. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3828-1.0
Former Citation
Cho, Sinhae and Sinhae Cho. 2019. "Motivating Engagement with Social Justice Issues through Compassion Training: A Multi-Method Randomized Control Trial." AEA RCT Registry. February 07. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3828/history/41179
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Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
The compassion meditation and active control (cognitive reappraisal) trainings under investigation have been developed and tested by Weng and colleagues (2013). Both trainings will entail 30 minutes of daily home practice using audio recordings. Compassion meditation training will involve contemplating others’ suffering and wishing them to be free from that suffering, progressively moving from easier (e.g., loved ones) to more difficult targets (e.g., a person with conflicts). Reappraisal training will involve re-interpreting stressful events to reduce resulting emotional intensity.
Intervention Start Date
2019-02-10
Intervention End Date
2019-12-31

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
- Prosocial engagement in the contexts where social disparity is highlighted
- Social resources
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
- We operationalized prosocial engagement in social justice context to include four parts. These are 1) willingness to engage in empathy towards out-group victims of social injustice as assessed through the Empathy Selection Task (EST)-a laboratory measure of real time empathy decision-making, 2) increased challenge physiology and reduced threat physiology when empathizing with out-group victims of social injustice in the EST, 3) self-reported interest in participating in actual social justice dialogues (World in Conversation at Penn State) post intervention, and 4) the amount of allotted money participants are willing to spend to correct unfair distribution of resources in Redistribution Game-a laboratory economic decision-making game.

- Social resources have been operationalized as perceptions of connection with close others as well as distant, general others assessed via self-report.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
- Individual difference measures of emotionality and prosociality
- Individual well-being measures
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
- Individual difference measures of emotionality will include self-reported, physiological, and behavioral measures of emotions and emotion regulation.
- Individual difference measures of prosociality will include self-reported measures of empathy and compassion.
- Individual well-being measures will include self-reported measures of subjective well-being, depression, and anxiety.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Participants will be randomly assigned to one of two, 2-week interventions: compassion training or active control training (cognitive reappraisal training) (Weng et al., 2013). During the training phase, participants’ daily practice (compassion or cognitive reappraisal training) and daily social interactions will be assessed online via self-report. Participants’ prosocial engagement and perceived social resources will be measured before and after training in a laboratory paradigm involving behavioral, physiological, and self-report assessments (See Primary Outcomes).
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization will be done by a computer, accounting for stratification by gender and age.
Randomization Unit
Participants will be stratified by gender and age.
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
80 individual participants
Sample size: planned number of observations
80 individual participants
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
40 participants in treatment condition, 40 participants in control condition
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Pennsylvania State University Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
2018-05-31
IRB Approval Number
STUDY00009205

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials