Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Mindfulness training improves working memory and cognitive performance while reducing mind wandering.

Yet another study, by Mrazek et al., on the salutary effects of mindfulness:
Given that the ability to attend to a task without distraction underlies performance in a wide variety of contexts, training one’s ability to stay on task should result in a similarly broad enhancement of performance. In a randomized controlled investigation, we examined whether a 2-week mindfulness-training course would decrease mind wandering and improve cognitive performance. Mindfulness training improved both GRE reading-comprehension scores and working memory capacity while simultaneously reducing the occurrence of distracting thoughts during completion of the GRE and the measure of working memory. Improvements in performance following mindfulness training were mediated by reduced mind wandering among participants who were prone to distraction at pretesting. Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences.
(The GRE is the Graduate Record Examination meant to test cognitive capacity of graduate school applicants. Readers interested in the details of the experiment, performed on the usual batch of ~50 college undergraduates, can email me.)

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