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To address pressing global problems like climate change and inequality, the predominant economic models must be rethought, incorporating other motivational systems that can induce different human behaviors.It is important, however, to distinguish between basic empathic responses and a more universal capacity for compassion. Empathy alone does not necessarily prompt pro-social behavior; empathizing with the suffering of another may not drive you to help that person. Both empathy and compassion seem to come naturally to humans.Empathy and care toward out-group members does not come quite as easily. Such universal or global compassion – caring about people who are very different from us – probably requires the involvement of higher cognitive functions, and thus may be unique to humans.Of course, mental exercises must be honed to develop particular skills and behaviors; mindfulness practice alone is not adequate to improve, say, socio-cognitive skills.With the right approach, it may be possible to foster the kind of altruistic and pro-social behaviors that are needed to improve global cooperation.
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