Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Meditation, Mindfulness, and Cognitive Flexibility


This research study looked at the link between meditation, self-reported mindfulness, and cognitive flexibility.  It compared a group of meditators that were experienced in mindfulness meditation with a group new to meditation considered the control group.  The study used the Stroop task and the d2-test of attention to test each participant’s ability to suppress interfering information and to focus and direct all their attention on one task.  Doing well in these areas is a sign of good cognitive flexibility often practiced during mindfulness training; therefore, the experienced meditators should do well in these areas.   Furthermore, the study used the Kentucky inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS) to assess the level of mindfulness participants experienced. 

The findings showed that cognitive flexibility showed a positive relationship to meditation practice and levels of mindfulness.  The meditators performed significantly better than the non-meditators in terms of all levels of attention.  Additionally, self-reported mindfulness was higher in meditators than in non-meditators and positive correlations with all attention measures were moderate to high strength.  

These findings suggest mindfulness shows linkage to improvements of attention function and cognitive flexibility.   Basically, high levels of mindfulness are correlated with high processing speed, good attention, inhibitory control, and good coordination of speed mindfulness showed links to reduced errors across measures, suggesting greater attentional control, accuracy of visual scanning, inhibitory control, carefulness, cognitive flexibility and overall quality performance. These findings supported the hypotheses that mindfulness correlates positively with task performance overall. 


This study contradicts itself in some areas.  The main area in which it contradicts itself is very important to the study.  In the abstract the study mentions the control groups is a group of naïve mediators.  Later in the study, researchers refer to the control group as non-meditators.  There is a large difference between the two therefore, using them interchangeably to describe the control group of the study creates confusion and exhibits a lack of clarity throughout the study.  This again comes up in the methods section referring to the control group as the naïve group.  The study should show a higher degree of consistency.

Additionally, the authors found it necessary to have participants take the test by using paper and a pencil.  They state this is how meditators take the test in the meditation center, therefore, it is necessary to use a paper and pencil version of the test to effectively assess the different aspects of attention performance.  While this may be true, a better explanation as to why in this particular instance a paper and pencil test is required to perform the test.  This would have provided a necessary background for the study seemingly leaving out a key point.

Overall, while this study had its flaws it did clearly exemplify the differences between mediators and the control group.  Although it did not show any real linkages to the intelligence community, it did highlight many benefits that meditation generates.  These factors may improve the work and attention of individual’s everyday work, skills that are applicable to the intelligence community.  


Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, mindfulness, and cognitive flexibility. Consciousness and Cognition, 18(1). 176-168. Retrieved from: http://psy.fgu.edu.tw/web/wlchou/perceptual_psychology/class_pdf/Advanced%20Perceptual/2011/2011week7_HaoChen_paper.pdf


  1. any study that seems to contradict itself, especially in the methods section, is automatically red flagged. While the results of the study may be accurate and generalizeable, the lack of clarity in methods ruins its credibility.

  2. I agree that this study has major contradictions and the researchers should not have used naive and non-meditator interchangeably. This can lend to an inconsistent methodology. I'm also interested in knowing how the researchers may have measured/determined to what extent the individuals in the control group were meditators that were experienced in mindfulness meditation.