7 Minutes of Meditation Could Reduce Racial Bias, Study Says

Person meditating at homeLoving-Kindness Meditation (LKM)—a form of Buddhist meditation designed to increase unconditional kindness toward others and oneself—could reduce racism, according to a small study published in Motivation and Emotion.

LKM encourages greater kindness and acceptance through a combination of visualization and repetitive phrases. For instance, a practitioner might envision a specific person or group of people while repeating positive thoughts about the person.

Can Meditation Combat Racism?

Researchers recruited 71 white adults who did not meditate. Each participant received a photo of a same-gender black person. Researchers told one group to look at the photo and notice the person’s facial features. They gave the other group instructions for LKM along with the photo. Both groups had just seven minutes with the photo.

Next, researchers administered an Implicit Association Test (IAT). The IAT asks test-takers to match images of people of different races with specific words. The tests shows people are generally quicker to match more positive words with their own ethnic group and more negative words with someone who is part of a different ethnic group. In this way, the IAT is a common tool for assessing bias.

Participants who engaged in LKM had lower scores of racial bias than those who only stared at a photo. When researchers tested the LKM group for bias directed toward other racial groups, they found no difference in bias. This suggests the effects of LKM specifically affected participants’ thoughts about the group targeted by meditation—a finding that supports the notion that meditation can reduce racial bias.

How to Meditate

If you are interested in trying LKM, this approach to meditation requires no special skill. Simply go to a quiet place, breathe deeply and slowly, and repeat loving mantras about yourself and others. The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society recommends some of the following mantras, which you can apply to yourself, other people, or both:

  • May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
  • May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger. May I be safe and protected.
  • May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
  • May I be healthy and strong.
  • May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.
  • May I be happy.

References:

  1. Loving-Kindness Meditation. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree/loving-kindness
  2. Meditation can combat racism. (2015, November 22). Retrieved from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/meditation-can-combat-racism/story-fn3dxix6-1227618540875
  3. Project Implicit. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/education.html
  4. Seven minutes of meditation can reduce racial prejudice, study finds. (2015, November 19). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151119122244.htm

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  • Erik

    Erik

    November 25th, 2015 at 2:18 PM

    If this is true then it appears that there are a whole lot of law enforcement officers who could benefit form this training right now.
    Not sure where things went so wrong, but it feels like we are going backward instead of moving forward in terms of love and understanding.

  • Hannah

    Hannah

    November 26th, 2015 at 6:30 AM

    quite beautiful mantras, and seemingly pretty simple
    i am going to give this a try
    i have never had much confidence that meditation was something that I could conquer
    i think that the simplicity of this shows me that there is a form of meditation out there that can end up working well for any of us

  • Nelly

    Nelly

    November 27th, 2015 at 2:42 PM

    Am I just being cynical when I say that I believe that it will take more than this to end racial bias and prejudice?

  • marcia

    marcia

    November 28th, 2015 at 11:05 AM

    If this is true, and I think that there is a good possibility that it could be, then I think that there are people in numerous job fields who could benefit. I understand that there are some which might seem the most important, like law enforcement, but ending our own little false beliefs and prejudices could be something that could work well for so many of us.

  • Lawrence

    Lawrence

    November 29th, 2015 at 7:19 AM

    Is this LKM meant to be for lasting change or only in the moment?

  • May

    May

    November 29th, 2015 at 1:35 PM

    For so many years we were making such progress in terms of bridging the gaps between the races and making real strides toward bringing many of us back together. I have noticed a real divide though lately in many communities and I don’t know what is happening to spur that hatred along. We don’t seem to be making that forward progress anymore and that really does sadden me.

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