The nondiscriminating heart: lovingkindness meditation training decreases implicit intergroup bias

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2014 Jun;143(3):1306-1313. doi: 10.1037/a0034150. Epub 2013 Aug 19.


Although meditation is increasingly accepted as having personal benefits, less is known about the broader impact of meditation on social and intergroup relations. We tested the effect of lovingkindness meditation training on improving implicit attitudes toward members of 2 stigmatized social outgroups: Blacks and homeless people. Healthy non-Black, nonhomeless adults (N = 101) were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 conditions: 6-week lovingkindness practice, 6-week lovingkindness discussion (a closely matched active control), or waitlist control. Decreases in implicit bias against stigmatized outgroups (as measured by Implicit Association Test) were observed only in the lovingkindness practice condition. Reduced psychological stress mediated the effect of lovingkindness practice on implicit bias against homeless people, but it did not mediate the reduced bias against Black people. These results suggest that lovingkindness meditation can improve automatically activated, implicit attitudes toward stigmatized social groups and that this effect occurs through distinctive mechanisms for different stigmatized social groups.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons / psychology
  • Male
  • Meditation / methods*
  • Meditation / psychology
  • Prejudice / prevention & control*
  • Prejudice / psychology
  • Racism / prevention & control
  • Racism / psychology
  • Random Allocation
  • Social Stigma*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult