Contemplative Practices and Mental Training: Prospects for American Education

Child Dev Perspect. 2012 Jun 1;6(2):146-153. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-8606.2012.00240.x. Epub 2012 Apr 23.


Drawing upon research in neuroscience, cognitive science, developmental psychology and education, as well as scholarship from contemplative traditions concerning the cultivation of positive development, we highlight a set of mental skills and socio-emotional dispositions that we believe are central to the aims of education in the 21(st) century. These include self-regulatory skills associated with emotion and attention, self-representations, and prosocial dispositions such as empathy and compassion. These positive qualities and dispositions can be strengthened through systematic contemplative practice. Such practice induces plastic changes in brain function and structure, supporting prosocial behavior and academic success in young people. These putative beneficial consequences call for focused programmatic research to better characterize which forms and frequencies of practice are most efficacious for which types of children and adolescents. Results from such research may help refine training programs to maximize their effectiveness at different ages and to document the changes in neural function and structure that might be induced.