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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Concentrating on Kindness

Tania Singer helped found the field of social neuroscience. Now she wants to apply what has been learned—by training the world to be more compassionate through meditation.

Kai Kupferschmidt
Science 20 September 2013:
Vol. 341 no. 6152 pp. 1336-1339
DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6152.1336

Empathy made Antoinette Tuff a minor celebrity. On 20 August, a young man armed with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition burst into the school in Decatur, Georgia, where Tuff works as a bookkeeper. It might have ended in yet another senseless mass killing if it hadn't been for Tuff's compassionate response to the gunman, recorded in its entirety because she had dialed 911.

As the man loads his weapon, Tuff seeks a human connection with him. She talks of her own struggles, her disabled son, her divorce, her thoughts of committing suicide. Finally, she persuades him to lay down his weapon, lie down on the ground, and surrender to the police. "I love you," she says near the end of the call. "You're gonna be OK, sweetheart." (Only after the man is arrested does she break down, crying "Woo, Jesus!")

Tuff's heroic conversation, posted on the Internet, was hailed by many commentators as evidence of the power of empathy and the value of compassion. If more people were like Tuff, there would be less violence and suffering, they say.

The entire article is here.
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