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Mindfulness meditation and reduced emotional interference on a cognitive task

Abstract

The effect of mindfulness meditation (MM) on attentional control in emotional contexts was examined. In Study 1, MM practitioners (N = 28) categorized tones presented 1 or 4 s following the onset of affective pictures. Reaction times (RTs) to tones for affective minus neutral pictures provided an index of emotional interference. Participants with more MM experience showed less interference from affective pictures and reported higher mindfulness and psychological well-being. Study 2 was a controlled, randomized experimental study in which participants (N = 82) received MM training, relaxation meditation (RM) training, or no intervention (waiting-list control; WLC). Behavioral, self-report, and psychophysiological measures were administered before and after a 7-week intervention period. Although both MM and RM resulted in smaller skin conductance responses to unpleasant pictures and increased well-being, reductions in emotional interference from unpleasant pictures were specific to MM. These findings indicate that MM attenuates prolonged reactivity to emotional stimuli.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    When correlations were computed on the untransformed data, the correlation between duration of experience and emotional interference on the EIT approached significance for unpleasant pictures for the 1 s [r = −.28, P < .10] and 4 s SOA [r = −.28, P < .10] and for pleasant pictures for the 4 s SOA [r = −.30, P < .10]. The correlation between duration of experience and mindfulness was significant for the MAAS [r = .45, P < .05] and approached significance for the TMS [r = .34, P < .10]. There was also a significant correlation with neuroticism [r = −.36, P < .05] and correlations approaching significance with SPWB and Self-Compassion [r = .32, P < .10 and r = .31, P < .10].

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a grant from the Mind and Life Institute. We thank Helena Hong Gao and Tim Sitt for their help in recruiting, scheduling, and testing participants, and Adam Anderson, Wil Cunningham, Kristin Neff, and P. R. Zelazo, for helpful comments on a previous draft. P. D. Zelazo is now at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota.

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Correspondence to Philip David Zelazo.

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Ortner, C.N.M., Kilner, S.J. & Zelazo, P.D. Mindfulness meditation and reduced emotional interference on a cognitive task. Motiv Emot 31, 271–283 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-007-9076-7

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Attentional control
  • Emotion
  • Well-being
  • Self-compassion