A widely-known meditation technique can promote feelings of kindness. A new study says that seven minutes of loving-kindness meditation (LKM), or metta bhavana, can significantly reduce racial prejudice.
University of Sussex researchers found that just seven minutes of LKM can help reduce racial bias. It promotes the feeling of kindness towards one's self and others too. The practice begins with having a loving acceptance of one's self to overcome feelings of self-doubt and negativity which will develop loving-kindness towards others.
"This indicates that some meditation techniques are about much more than feeling good, and might be an important tool for enhancing inter-group harmony," said Alexander Stell, lead author and a doctoral student in psychology.
In the study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, 71 white participants who do not practice meditation were given a photo of a black person of the same gender. They were then given either prerecorded LKM instructions or directions to look at the face of the person in the photo and take note of facial features. Both were done for just seven minutes.
"We wanted to see whether doing LKM towards a member of another ethnic group would reduce the automatic preference people tend to show for their own ethnic group," Stell added.
After both procedures were done, the researchers utilized the Implicit Association Test in which they tallied and scored the reaction times of the participants. They were asked to match positive and negative words with the faces that belonged to their own ethnic group or another.
Generally, people match positive things to people of their own ethnic group. However, when they underwent the LKM procedure, racial bias was reduced. Though there was no marked reduction, the procedure was adequate enough to somehow lessen the feelings of racial prejudice.
In 2012, 51 percent of Americans expressed explicit anti-black attitudes compared with 48 percent in 2008. The survey showed that racial prejudice increased from 2008 to 2012.
Racial and ethnic racism in the United States have been a national issue since the colonial and slavery era. Every aspect of life including land acquisition, wealth, health, employment, immigration, politics and the justice system are affected by racial discrimination issues.
Photo: Moyan Brenn | Flickr