The Psychology of Compassion and Cruelty
Understanding the Emotional, Spiritual, and Religious Influences
by Thomas G. Plante, Editor
March 2015, 258pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3269-7
$66, £49, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3270-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Research shows that human beings are capable of learning how to become compassionate.

This thoughtful book brings together some of the best psychological and spiritual thinkers to ponder evidence-based reflections about the development and nurturance of compassion.

In an effort to alter behavior, scientists have conducted research to better understand the factors that contribute to both caring and cruel behavior among individuals and groups. This uplifting volume reviews evidence collected from experts across disciplines and explains how certain psychological, spiritual, and religious factors spur compassion and deter cruelty. The work extols the importance of religion and psychology as tools for better understanding and influencing behavior.

With deep reflection combined with research-based insights, the book considers the various avenues for creating kinder human beings. Expert contributors examine empirical evidence to learn if engagement in particular activities results in benevolent behavior, while chapters present the many ways in which kindness touches all aspects of life—from racial harmony, to child rearing, to work environments. Topics include exploring the healing effects of prayers and meditation, integrating compassion into higher education, and parenting with greater mindfulness and care.


  • Illustrates how compassion is learned and reinforced
  • Features leading experts from multiple fields and parts of the world
  • Reflects on how to maximize compassion and minimize cruelty
  • Includes factors that contribute to both compassionate and cruel behavior
Thomas G. Plante, PhD, is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J. University Professor and professor of psychology at Santa Clara University as well as adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. His published works include Praeger's Abnormal Psychology Across the Ages; Religion, Spirituality, and Positive Psychology: Understanding the Psychological Fruits of Faith; and Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002–2012. He earned board certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABBP) and received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas.


"In The Psychology of Compassion and Cruelty: Understanding the Emotional, Spiritual, and Religious Influences Professor Thomas Plante has assembled a remarkable team of leading scholars offering a compelling and evidence based understanding of the development of compassion from psychological, spiritual, and religious influences. In a world that so desperately needs more compassion, this text will help readers to better appreciate how to nurture compassion in ourselves and others. The book is likely to become a classic in the field of positive psychology and the psychology of religion and spirituality and thus should be on the shelves of those who conduct research and practice in this area." —Harold G. Koenig, MD, Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Director, Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University Medical Center

"This is a deeply insightful and thought-provoking collection of writings from leading psychological researchers and religious scholars that address a crucial question of our day— how do we embrace human cruelty within the heart of wisdom and compassion itself? The answers you receive will inform, surprise, and delight you."—Kristin Neff, PhD, Associate Professor, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin
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