Brief Meditation Trainings Improve Performance in the Emotional Attentional Blink

Abstract

Objectives

To efficiently handle the continuous flow of information to which the attentional system is exposed, humans are equipped with filters like the attentional blink (i.e., a failure to detect a second target when it is presented between 200 and 500 ms after the first one). The aim of this study was to examine whether the practice of two standardized meditation programs (i.e., mindfulness and compassion) could modify the allocation of attentional resources towards emotional information.

Methods

A sample of 90 participants (43 in the mindfulness group and 47 in the compassion group) performed a variant of the emotional attentional blink task using negative, positive, and neutral faces, before and after the 8-week meditation programs.

Results

Both programs significantly decreased the standard AB effect (F(1.65, 145.58) = 39.79, p < .001, η2partial = .31) with only minor differences between them. Furthermore, the AB reduction after the programs varied according to the different emotional faces used (F(3.10, 272.83) = 4.44, p < .05, η2partial = .05).

Conclusions

Results suggest that standardized 8-week meditation programs may significantly change early stages of emotional stimuli processing while promoting a more balanced distribution of attentional resources towards emotional information.

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Acknowledgments

The authors want to thank all participants for their generosity to voluntarily participate in the study, in particular to the late Monserrat García Hermoso for her enthusiasm and humanity. We want to thank Sara Isabel Rodriguez and Roberto Morellón for all their assistance to assess participants, Carlos Sancho and Jose Mauricio Flórez for their technical assistance during the process, and Rosaria Maria Zangri for her help to edit the manuscript. We are also grateful to Gustavo G. Diez and Nazareth Castellanos, and all the Nirakara Lab, for their immense help and inspiration throughout the project. Finally, we also want to thank all the MBSR and CCT instructors: Agustín Moñivas, Ana Arrabé, Gonzalo Brito, and Silvia Fernández. We also thank Veronica Romero for her insightful comments and support along the process

Open Practices

All data are publicly available and can be accessed at https://github.com/nirakara-lab/AB-MEDITATORS.git. The study was approved by the university ethics committee prior to participant recruitment and was registered at ClinicalTrial.org (NCT03920241).

Funding

This research was partially supported by a Spanish Ministry of Economy (MINECO) grant (PSI2015-69253-R) to CV and Real Colegio Complutense at Harvard/Santander Bank grant (CT27/16-CT28/16) to PR.

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Contributions

PR and CV developed the study concept and study design. Testing and data collection were performed by PR. Data analysis and interpretation were performed by PR under the supervision of CV. PR and CV drafted the manuscript. Both authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Carmelo Vazquez.

Ethics declarations

Participants gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study. Furthermore, the study was approved by the university ethics committee prior to participant recruitment and was registered at ClinicalTrial.org (NCT03920241).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Roca, P., Vazquez, C. Brief Meditation Trainings Improve Performance in the Emotional Attentional Blink. Mindfulness 11, 1613–1622 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01374-x

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Compassion
  • Attentional blink
  • Attention
  • Emotional processing