Previous meta-analyses on the effects of mindfulness meditation were predominantly concerned with clinical research. In contrast, the present study aims at giving a comprehensive overview of the effects of mindfulness meditation on various psychological variables, for meditators in nonclinical settings. Included are 39 studies that fulfilled our six selection criteria: (1) a mindfulness meditation treatment, (2) the existence of an inactive control group, (3) a population of nonclinical adults, (4) the investigation of psychological measures that were (5) assessed at temporal distance from a meditation session, and (6) the availability of sufficient data to calculate effect sizes. The dependent variables examined included, among others, attention, intelligence, self-attributed mindfulness, positive and negative emotions, emotion regulation, personality traits, self-concept, self-realization, stress, and well-being. We found an effect size of \( \overline r = 0.27 \) averaged across all studies and dependent variables. The effects differed widely across dependent variables. Moreover, we found large differences between the effect sizes reported for complete Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs vs. “pure” meditation. MBSR seems to have its most powerful effect on attaining higher psychological well-being, whereas pure mindfulness meditation studies reported the largest effects on variables associated with the concept of mindfulness. This raises the question if some effect sizes found for MBSR might be partly inflated by effects that are not attributable to its mindfulness meditation component. Future theorizing should address meditation-specific concepts more extensively to account for the changes in healthy practitioners.
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The effect sizes g and d can be interpreted in the same way, although g is generally slightly smaller than d, especially with small sample sizes, because it uses estimated population variances instead of sample variances.
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Eberth, J., Sedlmeier, P. The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation: A Meta-Analysis. Mindfulness 3, 174–189 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0101-x
- Nonclinical population