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Unformatted text preview: Attachment Security, Compassion, and Altruism Mario Mikulincer 1 and Phillip R. Shaver 2 1 Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel, and 2 University of California, Davis ABSTRACT— Theoretically, people who have the benefits of secure social attachments should find it easier to perceive and respond to other people’s suffering, compared with those who have insecure attachments. This is because compassionate reactions are products of what has been called the caregiving behavioral system, the optimal functioning of which depends on its not being inhibited by attachment insecurity (the failure of the attachment be- havioral system to attain its own goal, safety and security provided by a caring attachment figure). In a series of recent studies, we have found that compassionate feelings and values, as well as responsive, altruistic behaviors, are promoted by both dispositional and experimentally in- duced attachment security. These studies and the theo- retical ideas that generated them provide guidelines for enhancing compassion and altruism in the real world. KEYWORDS— attachment; caregiving; compassion; altruism In a world burdened by international, interethnic, and inter- personal conflict, all people of goodwill wish it were possible to foster compassion and willingness to help others rather than ignore others’ needs and exacerbate their suffering. Many have probably entertained the intuitive notion that if only people could feel safer and less threatened, they would have more psychological resources to devote to noticing and reacting fa- vorably to other people’s suffering. While conducting research guided by seminal ideas first articulated by John Bowlby (1969/ 1982) in his books on attachment theory, we have demonstrated the usefulness of enhancing attachment security as a method of fostering compassion and altruism. In this article, we briefly describe some of our recent studies after providing the theo- retical essentials necessary to understand them. ATTACHMENT THEORY: BASIC CONCEPTS According to Bowlby (1969/1982), human beings are born with an innate psychobiological system (the attachment behavioral system ) that motivates them to seek proximity to people who will protect them ( attachment figures ) in times of need. The opera- tion of this system is affected by an individual’s social experi- ences, especially with early caregivers, resulting in measurable individual differences in attachment security. Interactions with attachment figures who are available and responsive, especially in times of need, promote optimal functioning of the attachment system, create a core sense of attachment security (a sense based on expectations that key people will be available and support- ive in times of need), and result in the formation of positive working models (mental representations of self and others)....
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- Fall '07
- attachment security, Mario Mikulincer