Mental Training towards a Caring Economy
Complex problems, such as climate change or irresponsible deployment of resources, are difficult to resolve without global participation of cooperating partners. To date, these problems have been mainly tackled through top-down approaches where governments and international institutions take the role of decision-makers.
There is scope for more involvement at the individual level: personal growth could be used to drive global change in a bottom-up approach. But two factors stand in the way of such involvement: first, departure from community-based living and increasingly self-centered individual attitudes; and second, busy and stressful lifestyles that further aggravate such egocentric tendencies.
Recent developments in affective, social and contemplative neurosciences show that empathy, compassion, a sense of fairness and other "social emotions" required for more "other-focused" perceptions of the world can be trained in a way similar to physical or mental skills. While the importance of fitness and mental faculties for economic performance is widely recognized, the value of "social and emotional intelligence" is still underappreciated. This is despite growing evidence that appropriate training is effective in changing brain functions to stimulate moral consciousness, personal responsibility, cooperation and "prosocial" behavior.
How can prosocial behavior be stimulated? What extrinsic incentives for prosocial behavior could be developed without crowding out intrinsic motivation? And how can intrinsic motivation for socially beneficial actions be intensified?