Social Mindfulness: Skill and Will to Navigate the Social World

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Although one may not always see it, social life often involves choices that make people act in ways that are mindful of others or not. We adopt an interdependence theoretical approach to the novel concept of social mindfulness, which we conceptualize in terms of other-regarding choices involving both skill (to see it, e.g., theory of mind, perspective taking) and will (to do it, e.g., empathic concern, prosocial orientation) to act mindfully toward another person’s control over outcomes. We operationalized social mindfulness in a new social decision-making paradigm that focuses on leaving or limiting choice options for others that we tested across 7 studies. Studies 1a through 1c showed that people with other-oriented mindsets left interdependent others more choice than people with self-oriented and/or unspecified mindsets. Studies 2a and 2b revealed that people developed more favorable judgments of a socially mindful than of a socially unmindful person. Study 3 revealed that unknown others with trustworthy (vs. untrustworthy) faces were met with more social mindfulness. Study 4 revealed that social mindfulness could be traced in personality by being positively related to Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness (HEXACO Personality Inventory-Revised) as well as to Empathy (Interpersonal Reactivity Index) and a prosocial value orientation (SVO). Together, these studies contribute to explaining how social mindfulness can help people to navigate the social world by aiming to maximize other people’s control over their situational outcomes.

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