Are People Who Meditate the Top Social Change Agents?

Are People Who Meditate the Top Social Change Agents?

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Do you meditate?

A few weeks ago, the New York Times Article “How Meditation May Change the Brain” by Sindya Banhoo in the “Well Blog” garnered 590 comments and was number six on the list of most emailed articles that week. I became curious about people who meditate every day versus those who do not and wondered:

Are they more likely to be the agents of social change? Are they more empathetic towards brands that make an effort to be socially responsible?

How did people who meditate every day measure up against the general population in terms of:

  • How important key sustainability issues are to them.
  • Sustainability attitudes- action disconnect
  • Are meditators more or less likely to feel the brands they engage with are socially responsible?
  • Are daily meditators more or less likely to be motivated by altruism to care about these sustainability issues?
  • Are they more or less motivated by fear and how do they compare to those who never engage in meditation or prayer?
  • Does the increased empathy that comes with meditation (as some of the research noted in the article suggests)  carry over to their brand relationships?

Diving into the database (n=5000, general population) from The SHIFT Report‘s annual quantitative study and SPI segmentation update, I looked at people who engage in meditation or prayer every day across a few areas of the study: sustainability issues, motivation, sustainable consumption categories and perception of brands as socially responsible. Here are the results:

Overall, those who meditate are more likely to rate the sustainability issues as important,  There’s no surprise that this would ring true for some of the issues that fall into the spiritual sustainability pillar. Those issues that fall into the environmental sustainability only show the least difference.

Q: Please rate the importance of the following issues associated with sustainability as they relate to you

Are those who meditate daily actually living their values with lifestyle choices and purchase decisions that deliver on social change?

The attitude-action disconnect is an unavoidable truth for everyone. Hey, we can’t all be like the folks in Portlandia. It turns out that those who meditate every day are more likely to be making sustainable lifestyle choices and purchase decisions than those who don’t, showing that they are more likely to be turning their sustainability attitudes into actions.  Note to Social Innovators and NGOs – Start a ‘get meditating’ campaign (and go beyond green).

Q: Which of the following areas of your life have you already made sustainable lifestyle choices and purchase decisions?

If people who meditate are more empathetic, according to the research published by Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging cited in Banhoo’s article does that empathy extend to brands?

Those who meditate or engage in prayer every day are more likely to want to know about the socially responsible behavior of brands whose products and services they buy: 73% versus 67% of the General North American population.

Here I selected a few brands from the study to look at. The first chart is clustered together a bit loosely, but with three groupings in mind and some overlap between them: competitors, those that spent consumer marketing $ on telling their sustainability story (authentic or otherwise), those that have sustainability ‘equity’ but didn’t spend significant consumer marketing $ telling their sustainability story.

Here we’ve sorted the brand list in a different way, ordered by perception as socially responsible. Those that North Americans (general population) feel are the most socially responsible sit at the top.

Me or We? Are meditators altruistic or are they equally motivated to care about sustainability issues by self-serving generosity as the average person?

Overall those who meditate are more motivated overall to make socially responsible lifestyle choices and purchase decisions and we can see that engaging in meditation or prayer leads to deeper motivation when looking at the differences between those who don’t ever, the general population and those who everyday.

Q: Please rate how motivating each of the following are in your interest to make socially responsible lifestyle choices and purchase decisions.

(Full disclosure: I meditate daily. )