Skip to main content

Long-term meditation: the relationship between cognitive processes, thinking styles and mindfulness

Abstract

The aim of this study is to examine the relationship between meditation and cognitive functions. More in depth the purpose is to demonstrate that long-term meditation practice improves attention skills and cognitive flexibility. Eighteen long-term meditation practitioners were compared to a matched control group, who never practiced meditation. Each subject was tested, using computerized software (Presentation Software 9.90), which measured: attention, visual search abilities, working memory and Stroop’s interference tasks. Furthermore, we examined the relationship between long-term meditation practice, mindfulness skills and thinking styles, namely styles of processing information. The results showed significant differences between the two groups, demonstrating that long-term meditation is linked to improvements of attentional functions, working memory and cognitive flexibility.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  1. Albaili MA (1993) Inferred hemispheric thinking style, gender, and academic major among United Arab Emirates college students. Percept Mot Skills 76:971–977

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Anderson ND, Lau MA, Segal ZV, Bishop SR (2007) Mindfulness-based stress reduction and attentional control. Clin Psychol Psychother 14:449–463

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Antonietti A, Fabio RA, Boari G, Bonanomi A (2005) The questionnaire “Style of Learning and Thinking” (SOLAT): psychometric data, validation, and standardization of the Italian version. TPM Test Psicometria Metodol 12:299–316

    Google Scholar 

  4. Antonietti A, Colombo B, Bartolomeo A (2007) Thinking style, browsing primes and hypermedia navigation. Comput Educ 49:916–941

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Baer RA, Smith GT, Allen KB (2004) Assessment of mindfulness by self-report: the Kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Assessment 11(3):191–206

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Barinaga M (2003) Studying the well-trained mind. Science 302(5642):44–46

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Bennett JE, Trinder J (1977) Hemispheric laterality and cognitive style associated with transcendental meditation. Psychophysiology 14(3):293–296

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Berkovich-Ohana A, Glicksohn J, Ben-Soussan TD, Goldstein A (2016) Creativity is enhanced by long-term mindfulness training and is negatively correlated with trait default-mode-related low-gamma inter-hemispheric connectivity. Mindfulness 8(3):717–727

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Breitmeyer BG (1984) Visual masking: an integrative approach. Oxford University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  10. Breitmeyer BG, Ganz L (1976) Implications of sustained and transient channels for theories of visual pattern masking, saccadic suppression, and information processing. Psychol Rev 83:1–36

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Breitmeyer BG, Ogmen H (2000) Recent models and findings in visual backward masking: a comparison, review, and update. Percept Psychophys 62(8):1572–1595

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Cañas JJ, Quesada JF, Antolí A, Fajardo I (2003) Cognitive flexibility and adaptability to environmental changes in dynamic complex problem-solving tasks. Ergonomics 46(5):482–501

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Capovilla E, Cason E, Giommi F (2009) Mindfulness in psicologia: un percorso di consapevolezza. In: Menichetti ET, Romeo M (eds) Professionalità ed innovazioni in psico-oncologia. Avenue Media, Bologna, pp 119–120

    Google Scholar 

  14. Chiesa A, Serretti A (2009) Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis. J Altern Complement Med 15(5):593–600

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Cohen J (1988) Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences, 2nd edn. Erlbaum, Hillsdale

    Google Scholar 

  16. Colzato LS, Sellaro R, Samara I, Hommel B (2015a) Meditation-induced cognitive- control states regulate response-conflict adaptation: evidence from trial-to-trial adjustments in the Simon task. Conscious Cogn 35:110–114

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Colzato LS, Sellaro R, Samara I, Baas M, Hommel B (2015b) Meditation-induced states predict attentional control over time. Conscious Cogn 37:57–62

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Corbetta M, Shulman GL (2002) Control of goal-directed and stimulus-driven attention in the brain. Nat Rev Neurosci 3:201–215

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Davidson RJ, Kabat-Zinn J, Schumacher J, Rosenkranz M, Muller D, Santorelli SK, Urbanowski F, Harrington A, Bonus K, Sheridan JF (2003) Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosom Med 65:564–570

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Fabio RA, Towey GE (2017) Cognitive and personality factors in the Regular practice of martial arts. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. https://doi.org/10.23736/S0022-4707.17.07245-0

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Fabri M, Antonietti A, Giorgetti M, Tonetti L, Natale V (2007) Circadian typology and style of thinking differences. Learn Individ Diff 17:175–180

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fan J, Flombaum JI, McCandliss BD, Thomas KM, Posner MI (2003) Cognitive and brain consequences of conflict. Neurolmage 18:42–57

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Fitzgerald D, Hattie JA (1993) An evaluation of your style of learning and thinking inventory. Br J Educ Psychol 63:336–346

    Google Scholar 

  24. Glicksohn J (1998) States of consciousness and symbolic cognition. J Mind Behav 19:105–118

    Google Scholar 

  25. Grigorenko EL, Sternberg RJ (1995) Thinking styles. In: Saklofske D, Zeidner M (eds) International handbook of personality and intelligence. Plenum, New York, pp 205–229

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  26. Hariri AR, Bookheimer SY, Mazziotta JC (2000) Modulating emotional responses: effects of a neocortical network on the limbic system. NeuroReport 11(1):43–48

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Hassan MM, Abed AS (1999) Differences in spatial visualization as a function of scores on hemisphericity of mathematics teachers. Percept Mot Skills 88:387–390

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Horan R (2009) The neuropsychological connection between creativity and meditation. Creat Res J 21:199–222

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Kabat-Zinn J (1994) Wherever you go there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life. Hyperion, New York

    Google Scholar 

  30. Kane MJ, Conway ARA, Miura TK, Colflesh GJH (2007) Working memory, attention control, and the n-back task: a question of construct validity. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 33:615–622

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Knight J (2004) Religion and science: Buddhism on the brain. Nature 432(7018):670

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Lee JK, Orsillo SM (2014) Investigating cognitive flexibility as a potential mechanism of mindfulness in generalized anxiety disorder. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry 45:208–216

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. Lenartowicz A, Escobedo-Quiroz R, Cohen JD (2010) Updating of context in working memory: an event related potential study. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 10(2):298–315

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  34. Leng YL, Hoo CT (1997) Explaining the thinking, learning styles, and cognition constructs. Math Educ 2(1):113–127

    Google Scholar 

  35. Lippelt DP, Hommel B, Colzato LS (2014) Focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation: effects on attention, conflict monitoring, and creativity—a review. Front Psychol 5:1083

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  36. Lutz A, Slagter HA, Dunne J, Davidson RJ (2008) Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends Cogn Sci 12:163–169

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  37. MacLeod CM (1991) Half a century of research on the Stroop effect: an integrative review. Psychol Bull 109:163–203

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. Michaels CF, Turvey MT (1979) Central sources of visual masking: indexing structures supporting seeing at a single, brief glance. Psychol Res 41:1–61

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Miller EK, Cohen JD (2001) An integrative theory of prefrontal cortex function. Annu Rev Neurosci 24:167–202

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Moore A, Malinowski P (2009) Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility. Conscious Cogn Int J 18(1):176–186

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Olivers CNL, Nieuwenhuis S (2005) The beneficial effect of concurrent task-irrelevant mental activity on temporal attention. Psychol Sci 16:265–269

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Olivers CNL, Nieuwenhuis S (2006) The beneficial effects of additional task load, positive affect, and instruction on the attentional blink. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 32(2):364–379

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Pagnoni G, Cekic M (2007) Age effects on gray matter volume and attentional performance in Zen meditation. Neurobiol Aging 28(10):1623–1627

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. Petro NM, Keil A (2015) Pre-target oscillatory brain activity and the attentional blink. Exp Brain Res 233(12):3583–3595

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  45. Posner MI, Rothbart MK (2007) Research on attention networks as a model for the integration of psychological science. Annu Rev Psychol 58:1–23

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  46. Raven JC (1938) Standard progressive matrices: a perceptual test of intelligence. Lewis, London

    Google Scholar 

  47. Shimamura AP (2000) Toward a cognitive neuroscience of metacognition. Conscious Cogn 9:313–323

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  48. Slagter HA, Lutz A, Greischar LL, Francis AD, Nieuwenhuis S, Davis JM, Davidson RJ (2007) Mental training affects distribution of limited brain resources. PLoS Biol 5(6):e138

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  49. Smallwood J, McSpadden M, Schooler JW (2007) The lights are on but no one’s home: meta-awareness and the decoupling of attention when the mind wanders. Psychon Bull Rev 14(3):527–533

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. Springer SP, Deutsch G (1997) Left brain, right brain. Freeman, New York

    Google Scholar 

  51. Stroop JR (1935) Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. J Exp Psychol 18:643–661

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Tang YY, Yinghua W, Wang J, Yaxin F, Feng S, Lu Q, Yu Q, Sui D, Rothbart MK, Fan M, Posner MI (2007) Short term meditation training improves attention and self- regulation. Proc Natl Acad Sci 104(43):17152–17156

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  53. Tang Y-Y, Ma Y, Fan Y, Feng H, Wang J, Feng S, Lu Q, Hu B, Lin Y, Li J, Zhang Y, Wang Y, Zhou L, Fan M (2009) Central and autonomic nervous system interaction is altered by short-term meditation. Proc Nat Acad Sci 106 (22):8865–8870

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  54. Torrance EP (1966) Torrance tests of creative thinking: norms and technical manual-research edition. Personnel Press, Princeton

    Google Scholar 

  55. Torrance EP (1981) Implications of whole-brained theories of learning and thinking for computer-based instruction. J Comp Based Instr 7(4):99–105

    Google Scholar 

  56. Torrance EP (1982) Hemisphericity and creative functioning. J Res Dev Educ 15:29–37

    Google Scholar 

  57. Torrance EP, McCarthy B, Kolesinski MT (1988) Style of learning and thinking. Scholastic Testing Service, Bensenville

    Google Scholar 

  58. Treisman A, Gormican S (1988) Feature analysis in early vision: evidence from search asymmetries. Psychol Rev 95:15–48

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  59. Treisman A, Sato S (1990) Conjunction search revisited. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 16:459–478

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  60. Turvey MT (1973) On peripheral and central processes in vision: inferences from an information-processing analysis of masking with patterned stimuli. Psychol Rev 80:1–52

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  61. Van Leeuwen S, Müller NG, Melloni L (2009) Age effects on attentional blink performance in meditation. Conscious Cogn 18:593–599

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  62. Wallace BA, Shapiro S (2006) Mental balance and well-being: building bridges between Buddhism and western psychology. Am Psychol 61(7):690–701

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  63. Weissman DH, Roberts KC, Visscher KM, Woldorff MG (2006) The neural bases of momentary lapses in attention. Nat Neurosci 9:971–978

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  64. Wolfe JM (1994) Guided search 2.0. A revised model of visual search. Psychon Bull Rev 1:202–238

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  65. Yamaguchi S, Yamagata S, Kobayashi S (2000) Cerebral asymmetry of the top-down allocation of attention to global and local features. J Neurosci 20:1–5

  66. Zalewski LJ, Sink CA, Yachimowicz DJ (1992) Using cerebral dominance for education programs. J Gen Psychol 119(1):45–57

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  67. Zeidan F, Faust M (2008) The effects of brief mindful training on cognitive control. In: Southeastern psychological association conference, Charlotte, NC

  68. Zeidan F, Johnson SK, Diamond BJ, David Z, Goolkasian P (2010) Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training. Conscious Cogn Int J 19(2):597–605

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Zhang LF (2002a) Thinking styles and modes of thinking: implications for education and research. J Psychol 136(3):245–261

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  70. Zhang LF (2002b) Thinking styles: their relationships with modes of thinking and academic performance. Educ Psychol 22(3):331–348

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Zhang LF (2006) Preferred teaching styles and modes of thinking among university students in mainland China. Think Skills Creat 1:95–107

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Zhang LF, Sternberg RJ (2006) The nature of intellectual styles. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Romeo, Z., Ciccocioppi, L. and Scalici, F. for their assistance in data collection.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Giulia Emma Towey.

Additional information

Handling editor: Narayanan Srinivasan (University of Allahabad).

Reviewers: Joseph Glicksohn (Bar-Ilan University), Peter Malinowski (Liverpool John Moores University).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Fabio, R.A., Towey, G.E. Long-term meditation: the relationship between cognitive processes, thinking styles and mindfulness. Cogn Process 19, 73–85 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10339-017-0844-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Meditation
  • Attention
  • Working memory
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Thinking styles