Differential benefits of mental training types for attention, compassion, and theory of mind

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Mindfulness- and, more generally, meditation-based interventions increasingly gain popularity, effectively promoting cognitive, affective, and social capacities. It is unclear, however, if different types of practice have the same or specific effects on mental functioning. Here we tested three consecutive three-month training modules aimed at cultivating either attention, socio-affective qualities (such as compassion), or socio-cognitive skills (such as theory of mind), in three training cohorts and a retest control cohort (N = 332). While attentional performance improved most consistently after attention training, compassion increased most after socio-affective training and theory of mind partially improved after socio-cognitive training. These results show that specific mental training practices are needed to induce plasticity in different domains of mental functioning, providing a foundation for evidence-based development of more targeted interventions adapted to the needs of different education, labor, and health settings.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

External IDs

Scopus 85071037352



  • Attention, Theory of mind, Compassion, Mindfulness meditation, Mental training