Friday, September 21, 2018


The behavioral science concept of compassion is similar to the common definition of the term.

Compassion is the feeling people describe when faced with another person’s 
suffering and the motivation to help reduce the impact of the suffering.

Compassion is related to the concepts of empathy and altruism but compassion is not the same as those concepts. Compassion involves emotional and cognitive empathy—the ability to take the perspective of another person and feel similar feelings. Compassion is different because it included the motivation to help improve someone’s situation.

Compassion shares with altruism the giving of oneself or resources to another. But compassion is not the only motive for altruism.

Compassion is related to love. The biology of compassion includes the presence of the hormone oxytocin, which has been called the “love drug” or the “bonding hormone.” In brain studies, the region of the brain linked to caring for others is activated in studies of empathy and caring. During sex, both men and women produce oxytocin. It’s also produced by women during childbirth and lactation.

Read more about love and compassion in Chapter 10 of Living Well on AMAZON.

One set of items to measure compassion is the Santa Clara Brief Compassion Scale (Hwang, Plante, & Lackey, 2008), which is derived from the longer, 21-item, Compassionate Love Scale (Sprecher & Fehr, 2005).

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Hwang, J., Plante, T., & Lackey, K. (2008). The development of the Santa Clara Brief Compassion Scale: An abbreviation of Sprecher and Fehr's Compassionate Love Scale. Pastoral Psychology56, 421-428. doi:10.1007/s11089-008-0117-2
Sprecher, S., & Fehr, B. (2005). Compassionate love for close others and humanity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 629–651.
Sutton, G. W., Jordan, K., & Worthington, E.L., Jr. (2014). Spirituality, hope, compassion, and forgiveness: Contributions of Pentecostal spirituality to godly love. Journal of Psychology and Christianity33, 212-226. Academia Link     ResearchGate 

Photo credit: I took the photo of Convoy of Hope helping people on the site where the tornado of 2007 destroyed the Assemblies of God church in Greensburg Kansas, USA. The tornado wiped out over 90% of the city.
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