Mindfulness and Moral Outrage

Mindfulness is all about being fully present, knowing where you are, and what you’re doing. It’s about staying calm and not letting external events overwhelm you. But could too much mindfulness make you numb to injustice? This idea intrigued Professor Jochen Reb and an international team of researchers based in Australia, Greece, and Singapore.

Investigating the Impact of Mindfulness on Moral Outrage

To explore the potential impact of mindfulness on our response to injustice, the team conducted a comprehensive research project. They wanted to know if mindfulness would make people more or less sensitive to unfair treatment of others.

The Surprising Results

Contrary to concerns that mindfulness might dull our reactions, the studies actually found the opposite. Mindful individuals were more likely to be outraged when witnessing injustice towards others. This surprising discovery has significant implications, especially in addressing broader societal issues.

Four Studies, One Consistent Result

The research involved four separate studies conducted across various countries and contexts. They examined responses to perceived corporate social irresponsibility, supervisor reactions, and even lab experiments. In all these situations, the results consistently showed that mindfulness heightened moral outrage.

Enhancing Self-Transcendence

Mindfulness has long been associated with greater self-awareness and self-regulation. It’s often used to reduce stress and improve well-being. However, this research suggests that it can also help temper negative emotions in the face of injustice. Moreover, it promotes self-transcendence, a mindset that goes beyond self-centered perspectives and includes empathy and helping behaviors towards others.

What Is Self-Transcendence?

Self-transcendence means looking beyond our narrow self-centered view of the world. It involves feeling empathy and taking actions to help others, even if we don’t know them personally. These actions are driven by a genuine concern for the rights, feelings, and welfare of other individuals.

The Research Journey

The research project aimed to answer a critical question: Does mindfulness numb or heighten our response to third-party injustice? This refers to situations where we witness someone else being treated unfairly, like being wrongly blamed for a mistake they didn’t make.

Four Studies for Comprehensive Insights

To address this question thoroughly, the team conducted four distinct studies. Their goal was to gather substantial evidence about whether mindfulness truly leads to increased concern for others facing unfair treatment.

Collaborative Efforts

This extensive research journey spanned over three years and involved collaboration between Professor Jochen Reb and three other experts: Adam A. Kay from the University of Queensland Business School, Theodore Masters-Waage from INSEAD, and Pavlos A. Vlachos from ALBA Graduate Business School, The American College of Greece.

The Final Verdict

The surprising findings from this research suggest that mindfulness doesn’t make us indifferent to injustice; instead, it amplifies our sense of moral outrage. This discovery could have far-reaching implications, particularly when it comes to addressing societal issues.


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