In a recent experiment, a team of scientists from Northeastern University in Boston advertised a meditation class and recruited a set of volunteers. Half of the respondents went along to the sessions, while the other half were told that they were on a waiting list instead.
For those who attended, the course involved different forms of compassion meditation which has its roots in Tibetan Buddhism. In essence, the classes were designed to encourage people to pick up on shared characteristics rather than their differences, says social psychology professor David DeSteno, who helped carry out the research.
Once the classes were complete, all of the respondents – including those still on the waiting list – were subject to a real-world test that they were unaware was taking place.
One by one, they were called to attend a meeting. Before it began, they entered a waiting room with three chairs. Two were occupied by actors, leading the participant to sit down at the third.