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07-02-2020 | ORIGINAL PAPER | Uitgave 4/2020

Mindfulness 4/2020

Increased Salivary Oxytocin and Empathy in Students of Clinical and Health Psychology After a Mindfulness and Compassion-Based Intervention

Mindfulness > Uitgave 4/2020
Miguel Bellosta-Batalla, M. Carmen Blanco-Gandía, Marta Rodríguez-Arias, Ausiàs Cebolla, Josefa Pérez-Blasco, Luis Moya-Albiol
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Mindfulness and compassion-based interventions (MCBI) have shown to be effective in increasing self-reported empathy in healthcare professionals. However, no studies described a beneficial effect of MCBI on biological variables related to empathy. In this study, we analyze the effects of an MCBI on the basal levels of salivary oxytocin (sOXT), empathic accuracy, and self-reported empathy in students of clinical and health psychology (N = 90).


In the experimental group (n = 37), an MCBI was applied. In the active control group (n = 27), students participated in basic psychotherapeutic skills training. In the waiting list group (n = 26), students did not participate in any intervention. A repeated-measures analysis of variance was performed, including pre- and post-intervention evaluations and the follow-up evaluation.


Results indicate a significant interaction between the groups on the basal levels of sOXT (p = .045, ηp2 = .05) and perspective taking (p = .040, ηp2 = .06), so that the experimental group showed increased sOXT at the end of the MCBI (p = .009, d = .66) and in perspective taking on the follow-up evaluation (p = .001, d = .52).


Introducing MCBI in the university education of clinical and health psychologists can help to improve their empathy skills, which would ultimately have a beneficial influence on the health of the users of their services. Furthermore, sOXT could be used as a valid biomarker in the study of the effects of MCBI on biological variables associated with empathy and affective bonds in different settings.

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