Helping people by being in the present: mindfulness increases prosocial behavior

Andrew C. Hafenbrack*, Lindsey D. Cameron, Gretchen M. Spreitzer, Chen Zhang, Laura J. Noval, Samah Shaffakat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


The present research tested whether mindfulness, a state characterized by focused, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment, increases prosocial behavior in the workplace or work-related contexts. Study 1a was a longitudinal field experiment at a US insurance company. Compared to workers under waitlist control, employees who were assigned to a daily mindfulness training reported more helping behaviors over a five day period both in quantitative surveys and qualitative daily diaries. Study 1b, conducted in a large consulting company in India, extends these findings with a field experiment in which co-workers rated the prosocial behavior of teammates in a round robin design. Moving from devoting time to devoting money, in Studies 2a and 2b we find that individuals randomly assigned to engage in a focused breathing meditation were more financially generous. To understand the mechanisms of mindfulness’ effects on prosocial behavior, Study 3 found support for empathy and moderate support for perspective taking as mediators. This study also examined the effects of induced state mindfulness via two different mindfulness inductions, focused breathing and loving kindness meditation. Our results indicate that secular state mindfulness can make people more other-oriented and helpful. This benefit holds even in the workplace, where being helpful toward others might face constraints but is nevertheless of great importance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-38
Number of pages18
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Altruism
  • Empathy
  • Loving kindness
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Perspective taking
  • Prosocial behavior


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