Contemplative Practices and Mental Training: Prospects for American Education

Richard J. Davidson, John Dunne, Jacquelynne S. Eccles, Adam Engle, Mark Greenberg, Patricia Jennings, Amishi Jha, Thupten Jinpa, Linda Lantieri, David Meyer, Robert W. Roeser, David Vago

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article draws on research in neuroscience, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and education, as well as scholarship from contemplative traditions concerning the cultivation of positive development, to highlight a set of mental skills and socioemotional dispositions that are central to the aims of education in the 21st century. These include self-regulatory skills associated with emotion and attention, self-representations, and prosocial dispositions such as empathy and compassion. It should be possible to strengthen these positive qualities and dispositions through systematic contemplative practices, which induce plastic changes in brain function and structure, supporting prosocial behavior and academic success in young people. These putative beneficial consequences call for focused programmatic research to better characterize which forms and frequencies of practice are most effective for which types of children and adolescents. Results from such research may help refine training programs to maximize their effectiveness at different ages and to document the changes in neural function and structure that might be induced. © 2012 The Authors. Child Development Perspectives © 2012 The Society for Research in Child Development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-153
Number of pages7
JournalChild Development Perspectives
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • Attention
  • Contemplative practice
  • Education
  • Emotion regulation
  • Neuroscience


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