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* This Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, empathy, compassion, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to! Subscribe to the Research Digests RSS feed to receive future digests.


More on the Benefits of Self-Compassion

"Self-Compassion is a Better Predictor than Mindfulness of Symptom Severity and Quality of Life in Mixed Anxiety and Depression"

Van Dam, N.T; Sheppard, S.C.; Forsyth, J.P; Earleywine, M. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, Vol. 25 (1), January 2011, 123-130.

This study builds on what we know about the relatively new psychological concept of “self-compassion,” the act of accepting our flaws and extending kindness toward ourselves during difficult times. The authors found that people with higher rates of self-compassion also reported fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and reported higher overall quality of life than people with lower self-compassion scores. They also found that reporting high self-compassion is a stronger predictor of well-being than reporting high levels of mindfulness, the moment-by-moment awareness of our internal thoughts and feelings and external circumstances. The results point to the importance of cultivating compassion toward ourselves, not just others. —Janelle Caponigro

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What’s an Apology Really Worth?

"How Important Is an Apology to You? Forecasting Errors in Evaluating the Value of Apologies"

De Cremer, D.; Pillutla, M.M.; Reinders Folmer, C. Psychological Science, Vol. 22 (1), January 2011, 45-48.

This study suggests apologies often aren’t as powerful as we think they’ll be. Participants played a computer game in which an unknown opponent betrayed them. Afterward, they received an apology from the opponent or were asked to imagine receiving an apology from him. In both cases, they then rated how much the real or hypothetical apology meant to them. The researchers found that people consistently overestimated the value of a potential apology: They valued a real apology significantly less than an imagined one. Furthermore, they were more likely to trust the transgressor in the future if they imagined receiving an apology than if they actually received an apology. These findings suggest that the act of anticipating an apology is more powerful than receiving an apology, and we may not respond as positively to an apology as we originally think we will. —Janelle Caponigro

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How Long Do Exercise Benefits Last?

"Exercise and Time-Dependent Benefits to Learning and Memory"

Berchtold, N.C., Castello, N., Cotman, C.W. Neuroscience, Vol. 167 (3), May 2010, 588-97.

We know that exercise is good for our mental and physical health, but how long does it take for these benefits to wear off? In this study, mice who had exercised for three weeks were trained to find their way through a maze; the training took place either immediately after the three weeks of exercise ended, or one or two weeks later. The researchers recorded how well the mice navigated the maze and measured the amount of a protein in their brain that’s important to memory formation and storage.

All the mice who had exercised performed better in the maze than mice who had been sedentary for the three weeks. Surprisingly, mice did the best in the maze when they were trained one week after their exercise regimen ended. Levels of the brain protein were elevated immediately after exercise, and at one and two weeks later, but returned to pre-exercise levels by three to four weeks. This research suggests that the benefits of exercise for learning and memory continue to evolve even after we stop exercising. —Neha John-Henderson

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