Friday, May 28, 2010

One method for compassion development that parallels traditional techniques

Response and Addendum to Intimate Media and Ambient Intelligence

One method for compassion development that parallels traditional techniques:

After a participant is exposed to an initial stimulus of a picture of a “loved one” or their closest associate (mother, best friend, etc.), they are then asked to perpetuate the feeling of compassion (at the same intensity/valence) while viewing pictures of friends, strangers, and “enemies”.

In order for this system to have the greatest efficacy, the pictures must be drawn from the participant’s life. The creation of an interface that leverages readily available intimate digital media, such as pictures stored online, combined with categorization methods, such as tagging and grouping, is the first step.

Research Set-up:

Setting: Initial studies are to be performed in a lab setting, with the ultimate goal being integration into the home environment through a computer interface or digital photo frames.


Participants are asked to go through their photostream, tagging each photo containing a person with the level of compassion they feel towards that person. In order to avoid complex interference, only those pictures with one person should be used. Level One would represent those closest to the participant (center point in the diagram, see diagram). Level Two represents friends. Level Three are strangers (which are pulled from random pictures, not from the participant’s photostream). Level Four are “enemies”, those people to whom the participant shows an aversion.
The tags will allow the application to show the participant Level One pictures first. It is important to have the participant reflect on the feelings that are aroused by the picture, specifically that of compassion.
After a preset period of time, the Level Two pictures will be shown and the participants will be asked to perpetuate that initial level of compassion to these pictures, as well as they can. In order to most closely parallel traditional techniques, the first sessions should only include Level One and Two pictures.
Once the intensity of compassion for Level Two draws near that of Level One, then Level Three pictures should be introduced and so on to Level Four.


Self-reporting measures will be used to track the participants’ progress, as pictures change in level of compassion felt. A more rigid study can be performed using fMRI readings to quantify the change in neural activity of those regions of the brain associated with compassion.

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