The Impact of Intensive Mindfulness Training on Attentional Control, Cognitive Style, and Affect

Abstract

To evaluate the impact of an intensive period of mindfulness meditation training on cognitive and affective function, a non-clinical group of 20 novice meditators were tested before and after participation in a 10-day intensive mindfulness meditation retreat. They were evaluated with self-report scales measuring mindfulness, rumination and affect, as well as performance tasks assessing working memory, sustained attention, and attention switching. Results indicated that those completing the mindfulness training demonstrated significant improvements in self-reported mindfulness, depressive symptoms, rumination, and performance measures of working memory and sustained attention, relative to a comparison group who did not undergo any meditation training. This study suggests future directions for the elucidation of the critical processes that underlie the therapeutic benefits of mindfulness-based interventions.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Throughout this paper, the term “mindfulness” is used interchangeably with the Sanskrit term “Vipassana”. This type of practice is also referred to as Lhaktong (Tibetan). There are different forms of this practice found throughout different Buddhist lineages, although all have the common aim of fostering insight into the nature of the mind.

  2. 2.

    There are a number of ways to calculate change scores from pre- and post-intervention scores. The most basic method is to subtract pre-scores from post-scores, to provide difference scores. However, where such change scores are correlated, this is akin to part/whole correlations, which tend to produce misleading results, typically an over-correction of the post-score (Cohen, Cohen, West, & Aiken, 2002). Consequently, a linear regression analysis was used here, with the pre-score (T1) used to predict the post-score (T2). This analysis was used to derive a standardized residual score for each dependent variable to represent the change in that variable over the intervention period. These standardized scores were then analyzed for correlation with change residuals from other variables in order to evaluate which changes covaried over the intervention period.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the staff and volunteers at Dhamma Aloka Vipassana Centre in Woori Yallock, Victoria, Australia, whose support was instrumental in being able to conduct this research.

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Correspondence to Nicholas B. Allen.

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Chambers, R., Lo, B.C.Y. & Allen, N.B. The Impact of Intensive Mindfulness Training on Attentional Control, Cognitive Style, and Affect. Cogn Ther Res 32, 303–322 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-007-9119-0

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Executive cognition
  • Attention
  • Rumination
  • Working memory
  • Depression