Plasticity of the social brain: training the mind and heart to a more caring society
Yes, you can change your brain, said Professor Tania Singer in her OWP live keynote address aimed at improving one of today’s most pressing issues – mental health and well-being.
In the last few decades, society has faced many complex global problems that call for innovative solutions, real change and a new approach to leadership. More and more business leaders are embracing mindfulness and empathy techniques to better understand the challenges they face, how to address them and how to lead teams through necessary transformations.
Emerging scientific fields such as social and contemplative neurosciences have produced promising findings that may help inform and tackle such challenges, especially in the areas of brain plasticity.
In her OWP liVe keynote address “Plasticity of the social brain: from training the mind and heart to a more caring society”, Professor Tania Singer – Scientific Head of the Max Planck Society’s Social Neuroscience Lab – explained how the development of different aspects of our mind could transform economies and build healthier societies.
Professor Singer introduced her audience to the ReSource Project, a large one-year secular mental training program: “It aimed to cultivate attention, awareness, perspective-taking, compassion and pro-social behaviors, while at the same time reducing stress, and improving mental and physical health.”
The project, which studied more than 200 people across more than 90 metrics, included new ways of training social intelligence and understanding both yourself and others through meditation-based mental exercises. This ten-minutes of daily empathetic listening in which participants also learn to take in the perspective of others leads to excellent results.
“We produced evidence that some of our mental training modules reduced 51% of the social stress response of our participants,” she said.
Presenting the first findings, Professor Singer offered new ways to train the brain and develop compassion to lead in business and to develop new economic models.
“Many of our findings show that compassion is not just a luxury or a weak feeling,” said the neuroscientist, “but a powerful source to improve important social skills, altruism and global cooperation.”
Implementing mental trainings into businesses could help executives better address complex issues by re-introducing secular ethics that promote the idea of taking responsibility through compassionate leadership and responsible actions.
Professor Singer concluded with a call to action: “Although it’s never too late to begin, we should already introduce mental practices including social partner exercises in schools to reduce bullying and social stress and increase social skills – which are needed more than ever in our modern world.”
Whether you’re under 18 or over 50, training these “muscles” in the brain can build attention, compassion and social cognition to boost your leadership skills – and your life.