Transcendent moral motives and virtue : a meditation-based experiment exploring the roles of self-transcending and self-enhancing motives in virtue development.


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Current virtue theories emphasize the role of self-transcendent morality in virtue development, but there is limited empirical work that explores this. A three-week meditation-based intervention (N = 877) experimentally manipulated self-transcending (vs. self-enhancing) motives in the development of patience, generosity, social responsibility, gratitude, and honesty. We hypothesized that participants in the transcendent condition would report higher post-intervention virtue, self-transcendent positive emotions, and values of universalism and benevolence, and these patterns were hypothesized to persist for virtue after controlling for baseline levels. We further predicted self-transcendent emotions and self-enhancement would mediate this relation. Results indicated post-intervention differences between the two meditation conditions and an inactive control, but not each other. The meditative conditions reported higher self-transcendence and self-enhancement, and self-transcendence and self-enhancement mediated the pathway between baseline and post-intervention virtue. These findings hold important implications for research on meditation, the role of self-transcendence in virtue development, and implementing virtue-building interventions.



Motivation. Self-transcendence. Self-enhancement. Mantra meditation. Meditation experiment. Virtue.