Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Ruth A. Baer

Abstract

Mindfulness is increasingly recognized as an important phenomenon both clinically and empirically, with mindfulness-based interventions demonstrated to be efficacious across a wide variety of patient populations and disorders (i.e., Baer, 2003). Though debate regarding the exact definition of mindfulness continues, generally accepted definitions involve the common elements of intentionally directing attention toward the present moment and adopting an accepting, nonjudgmental, and/or nonreactive orientation, intent, or attitude (i.e., Baer et al., 2006; Bishop et al., 2004). Several testable predictions in the cognitive and emotional domains were derived from the operational definition of mindfulness provided by Bishop et al. (2004). Recent empirical work (i.e., Chambers, Lo, & Allen, 2008; Valentine & Sweet, 1999) has supported Bishop et al.’s predictions, providing initial validation of their operationalization of mindfulness. However, most work on the effects of meditation practice and the mindfulness construct has relied on self-report methodology. The current work transcended past research by using behavioral methods to investigate the effects of meditation practice, correlates of trait mindfulness, and validity of current conceptualizations of mindfulness. Additionally, the current work investigated relationships between meditation, mindfulness, and self-regulation using behavioral methods. This investigation was warranted as recent theoretical work suggested that increased self-control abilities may be the primary mechanism by which mindfulness-based interventions work and that higher levels of trait mindfulness may appear to be related to enhanced well-being due to the unmeasured third variable of enhanced self-regulatory abilities (Masicampo & Baumeister, 2007). Ninety-eight individuals (33 meditators, 33 age-matched nonmeditating controls, and 32 students) completed self-report and behavioral measures of attention, learning, memory, cognitive and emotional biases, and self-regulation in individual sessions. Results demonstrated that meditation practice related to few of the measured constructs, with significant group differences detected between the meditators and nonmeditators in short-term memory, long-term memory, and self-regulation only. Self-reported trait mindfulness in the nonmeditators related only to self-reported psychological well-being. These results stand in stark contrast to most of the current literature on meditation and mindfulness. The research raises more questions about the effects of meditation practice and conceptualization of mindfulness than it answers, though multiple interpretations of the data are possible.

Included in

Psychology Commons

Share

COinS