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Short-Term Training in Loving-Kindness Meditation Produces a State, But Not a Trait, Alteration of Attention
Christopher J. May & Michelle Burgard & Melissa Mena & Imran Abbasi & Noah Bernhardt & Samantha Clemens & Eve Curtis & Eben Daggett & Jaimie Hauch & Kayla Housh & Alison Janz & Amber Lindstrum & Kimberly Luttropp & Rebecca Williamson
Published online: 13 April 2011 # Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011
Abstract While mindfulness meditation has been associated with enhanced attentional abilities, the consequences of loving-kindness meditation for attention have not previously been investigated. We examined the trait and state effects of 8 weeks of training in loving-kindness meditation (LKM) on the attentional blink. The attentional blink is a period of time in which a target stimulus is less likely to be detected if it follows too quickly (approximately 500 ms) after a previously detected target. For the two experiments reported here, a group of participants trained in LKM by meditating for approximately 15 min per day, four days per week, for 8 weeks. Experiment 1 utilized a pre-post design, with a non-meditating control group, to examine whether this training reduced the attentional blink. No differences were found. However, in an exploratory analysis, meditators did exhibit increases in two facets of mindfulness measured by the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire: observation and descriptiveness. In experiment 2, we tested for a state effect of LKM by having trained meditators practice LKM immediately prior to the attentional blink task. Here, meditators had a significantly reduced blink size compared to control participants. To establish that this reduction was caused by the combination of LKM training with pre-task meditation, we analyzed the data in experiment 2 with respect to one of our previous works, which reported that the practice of LKM immediately prior to the attentional blink task in
C. J. May (*) : M. Burgard : M. Mena : I. Abbasi : N. Bernhardt : S. Clemens : E. Curtis : E. Daggett : J. Hauch : K. Housh : A. Janz : A. Lindstrum : K. Luttropp : R. Williamson Department of Life Sciences, Carroll University, 100 N. East Ave, Waukesha, WI 53186, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
those without meditation training did not reduce the blink magnitude. This analysis also revealed a significant difference. Therefore, training in LKM, coupled with its practice immediately prior to an attention task, caused a state reduction in the attentional blink. These results are the first to demonstrate that LKM, an emotion-focused practice, influences cognitive processing. Keywords Meditation . Loving-kindness . Metta . Attentional blink . Mindfulness
Introduction Research into the psychological and physiological effects of mindfulness meditation has burgeoned in recent years; however, other types of meditation, such as loving-kindness meditation, have received relatively little attention. Mindfulness meditation is primarily a cognitive practice (Wallace and Shapiro 2006), in which the practitioner cultivates “bare attention”—the ability to notice thoughts, emotions, and sensations without any accompanying mental discursiveness. Loving-kindness meditation (LKM), on the other hand, is an emotion-focused meditation designed to cultivate affective balance, which is considered an important skill born of contemplative practice (Ekman et al. 2005; Wallace and Shapiro 2006). Research on emotion-focused meditations, which includes compassion meditation—a practice similar to LKM, has naturally focused on their consequences for emotion and psychological health. For example, LKM (also referred to as Metta meditation) has been shown to increase self-compassion (Shapiro et al. 2005; Shapiro et al. 2007), positive emotion, mindfulness, life purpose, and social support (Fredrickson et al. 2008), as well as social connectedness (Hutcherson et al. 2008). Furthermore, LKM
did not reduce the attentional blink. to oneself. and free from suffering. 2009). see Salzberg 1995). 2008). In extended versions of this practice. 2008. the attentional blink (Slagter et al. 2007. wherein participants are asked to identify two targets embedded within a stream of distractor stimuli. however. There. distress. van Leeuwen et al. 1996 cited in Fredrickson 1998. Srinivasan et al. these consequences may be similar to those of mindfulness meditation for one measure of attention. Attention. The attentional blink is observed in rapid serial visual presentation paradigms. the meditator may silently repeat phrases such as “May you be well. in particular. 2009). 2008. As discussed more fully below. 1992). 2009). and anger (Carson et al. in either the 12th position (lag 3) or the 17th position (lag 8) hypotheses to explain the decreased probability of detecting a second target when it occurs at short lags: the overinvestment hypothesis and the positive affect hypothesis. resulting in lower attentional investment in the ongoing stream of stimuli in an attentional blink task. to a person that typically evokes negative emotions (for more. in contrast to an attention-focused meditation (one-pointed meditation). Like manipulations to decrease attentional investment. Compton et al. Derryberry and Tucker 1994. increased access to a higher. Burgard and May (2010) found that LKM. because LKM increases positive affect and mood (Fredrickson et al. Carter et al. and alleviates negative symptoms of schizophrenia (Johnson et al. emotion-focused meditations like LKM should have cognitive consequences. To start this meditation. Compassion meditation both reduces psychological distress and improves immune function (Pace et al. increased cognitive load (Olivers and Nieuwenhuis 2006). Only two studies to date. we failed to find an effect (Burgard and May 2010).” While repeating these phrases. and limited capacity processing stage. Each letter or digit appeared for 50 ms. 2008). have examined the influence of an emotion-focused meditation on a classically cognitive process. Hutcherson et al. and instructions to concentrate less (Olivers and Nieuwenhuis 2006). the meditator focuses on the intentionality and emotion behind them. Accordingly. 1 Attentional blink stimuli. thereby interfering with the consolidation necessary for target detection. Srinivasan et al. as Barnhofer et al.” “May you be happy. Fredrickson and Branigan 2005. The attentional blink is a reduced ability to detect a target stimulus if it appears too quickly (~100–500 ms) after a previously detected target stimulus (Raymond et al. the practitioner calls to mind the image of a loved one. The second target (T2) appeared on 50% of trials. 1). see Fig. 2010). The temporal distance between the two targets is a function of how many intervening distractor stimuli there are (this is referred to as a trial’s “lag”. Gasper and Clore 2002. Nonetheless. 2009). In previous work looking at the influence of LKM on the attentional blink. Similarly. 2004. competitive. In addition. positive affect distributes attention (e. the meditator progressively changes the object of focus from a loved one.g.144 Mindfulness (2011) 2:143–153 reduces pain. which is a measure of the temporal dynamics of attention.. This 10 min of LKM likely induced some positive affect. Rowe et al. Olivers and Nieuwenhuis (2006) advanced two Fig. 2007. it should therefore have consequences for attention. LKM should attenuate the attentional blink since LKM increases positive affect and mood (Fredrickson et al. attending to a rapidly presented stream of stimuli gives all stimuli. targets and distractors alike. (2010) found that 15 min of guided LKM produced a shift in EEG laterality toward a pattern associated with positive . symptoms of illness (Fredrickson et al. 2006). higher levels of dispositional positive affect predict a reduced attentional blink (MacLean et al. is modulated by affect (Basso et al. because emotions influence cognition (Isen 1987). LKM involves progressively directing feelings of loving-kindness to the mental images of selected people. For example. participants without prior LKM training followed a guided meditation file for 10 min before beginning the attentional blink task. Hutcherson et al. happy. According to the former. 2009). positive affect inductions reduce the attentional blink (Jefferies et al. Indeed. and then direct intentions toward that person. (2001) found that. The first target (T1) always appeared in the 9th position. This prediction has been confirmed in experiments that employ mental distraction (Olivers and Nieuwenhuis 2005).” and “May you be free from suffering. Distracter stimuli that gain access prevent access by target stimuli. 2008). 2008. to a neutral figure. The positive affect hypothesis is a particular instantiation of the overinvestment hypothesis. see Dreisbach and Goschke 2004. The overinvestment hypothesis implies that reducing attentional investment in the incoming stream of stimuli should decrease distractor interference and increase the proportion of correctly identified second targets. compassion meditation did not influence the rate of percept switching in a binocular rivalry paradigm undertaken by Tibetan monks. Olivers and Nieuwenhuis 2006). with a 50-ms inter-stimulus interval. practiced by participants with no meditation training. attempting to generate the genuine desire that their loved one be well.
Indeed. we investigated whether training in LKM produced trait changes in attention. FFMQ. is nonreferential) are training-time dependent. General Method Participants All participants were college students at a small. There is also no evidence that the size of the attentional blink can be moderated by knowledge of the task. Mindfulness meditation emphasizes the cultivation of bare attention. both were administered three paper and pencil surveys: the Big Five Inventory (BFI. In contrast. This design was motivated by the intensive time commitment required of meditators and served to incentivize adherence to the training regimen. (2008) found that LKM increased positive emotions. However. we examined whether LKM. Olivers and Nieuwenhuis 2006. practiced immediately prior to the attentional blink task by those with LKM training. Success with bare attention requires practice and perseverance through the frustration of being swept away by thoughts. This design reasonably raises concerns that our results may be attributable to motivational and knowledge differences between groups. 2008). and the Positive Affect Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS. While “not thinking” is not the goal of mindfulness meditation. they may be co-authors on a manuscript. including grades. led by the first author (CJM). the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ.6% female) were volunteers solicited from ongoing psychology courses. For the BFI. training in LKM may. those with extensive familiarity with the attentional blink still produce the standard attentional blink curve (Braun 1998). reflected in a reduced attentional blink. there is practical motivation for this work as well. LKM prompts the practitioner to become engrossed in particular thoughts. (2004) found that compassion mediation was associated with significant increases in gamma EEG band power. Recent research indicates that the effects of compassion meditation (which is similar to LKM. we use data on T1 detection to argue against differential motivation. Anecdotally. per Oliver and Nieuwenhuis’ (2006) positive affect hypothesis. meditators were aware that if they did adhere to the training program. since LKM involves less antagonism with normal discursive thinking. Baer et al. Watson et al. No course outcome. this is a common misconception. Mage =23. some beginning meditators find LKM to be easier than mindfulness meditation. as measured by the Mindfulness and Awareness Scale (Brown and Ryan 2003). Therefore. in novices following just 1 week of training (1 h/day). the relationship between LKM and facets of mindfulness (described below) has not previously been studied. In addition to theoretical reasons for hypothesizing that LKM improves attention. 2006. Control participants were informed that they would be participating in a study on meditation being conducted as part of the first author’s course. and PANAS. In experiment 2. in which this research was conducted. and a significant effect were found. If LKM training reduces the attentional blink. we conducted an exploratory analysis of the effects of LKM on mindfulness. LKM may make attentional changes more accessible. Mage =22. 2008a). midwestern university. if the meditation group were more engaged in the attentional blink task. 76. 1988). Fredrickson et al. where the practitioner notices thoughts but does not engage them. Participants volunteered on the condition that they were able to come in for testing at two time periods. This increase was also substantially larger in monks. Furthermore. A substantially larger increase in gamma power was observed in monks. We further examined if changes were mediated by changes in affect. while a single session of LKM failed to reduce the attentional blink (Burgard and May 2010). Taatgen et al. Enrollment in this course determined the sample sizes. They were research assistants for this project. however. For example. Finally. produced state changes in attention.Mindfulness (2011) 2:143–153 145 affect (see Tomarken et al. several recent studies have found that reductions in the attentional blink are caused by decreased engagement in the task (Arend et al. We further hypothesized that a training-related reduction in the attentional blink would be mediated by increased positive affect. Benet-Martinez and John 1998. Participants in the meditation group (N=13. which in turn increased mindfulness. 2009). 1991. However.08. In the “Results and Discussion” Section.9% female) were students in a psychology course. we assume that the effects of LKM may be as well. . 78. Lutz et al. see Ward 2003). Participants in the control group (N=14. this change in affect may have been either too weak to influence attentional processing or not adequately sustained throughout the task. participants with 1 week of training in compassion meditation showed a significant increase of activity during meditation in the anterior cingulate/medial prefrontal cortex of the brain (Lutz et al. However. In experiment 1. Olivers and Nieuwenhuis 2005. was linked to adherence to training. this additional engagement would cause a change in blink magnitude in the opposite direction from our hypothesis that meditation reduces the blink size. Thus. 1992). All three tests are well validated. To determine if there were differences between the meditation and control groups. 2006). which is associated with attention (for a review. but rather than directing loving-kindness to specific people. John et al. John et al.21. Because the effects of compassion meditation are training-time dependent.
May I be free from suffering.. SuperLab 4. Then. F(1. . As a result. The PANAS asked participants to rate the amount of positive affect (e.04 than the control group. Baer et al. Materials An attentional blink task was created with SuperLab 4.wma). Meditators were also provided with an mp3 audio guided meditation file (http://marc. and active) and negative affect (e. and Watson et al. Since scores on the observe facet deviated from a normal distribution (Shapiro–Wilk=.01. meditators were asked not to select the image of a significant other. May you be happy.968. there was no difference on neuroticism between groups (all other questionnaire analyses yielded the same results reported here). On average. 1).0 synchronizes the onset and offset of stimuli with the respective onset and offset of the monitor’s refresh cycle. They were also told that if they had difficulty selecting a person. All remaining stimuli were randomly selected letters (without replacement) in the set A though Z (excluding B. or follow the mp3 file. The FFMQ measures five dimensions of mindfulness: observing (“I pay attention to sensations such as the wind in my hair or the sun in my face”).15 min (SD=71. O. Trials consisted of the rapid serial visual presentation of either 14 or 19 stimuli (presented in black font on a grey background. meditators were instructed to shift their mental image to an image of themselves. from multiple teachers at multiple meditation centers and meditation retreats. neuroticism. The first target (T1) was a random number between 2 and 9. While neuroticism is associated with an increased attentional blink (MacLean and Arnell 2010). The BFI assessed individuals on five personality dimensions: extraversion. Z=1. we again used the K–S test to examine group differences. conscientiousness.0. No significant differences were found on any of the five facets.” After approximately another 5 min.05. describing (“I’m good at finding words to describe my feelings”). Baer et al. and X). they directed the same three intentions to themselves by changing the pronoun: “May I be well. Meditation Training Participants in the meditation condition were introduced to LKM through a 15-min guided meditation led by the first author (CJM). four days a week. After calling to mind the image of someone who naturally evoked loving feelings. participants meditated 485. one or two targets could appear. Meditators were told that it is normal for their minds to wander at some point during this practice. and agreeableness.” appeared on 50% of trials. acting with awareness (“When I do things. distressed. S. we used a non-parametric test. I. p=.g. was stressed. ANOVAs revealed no significant differences between groups on either positive or negative affect. In this introduction. and ashamed) they felt in the past week. rather than the words themselves. and that when they have noticed their mind wander. excited. two outliers on the attentional blink were removed from the data analysis. p=. Fig. The K–S test revealed that the meditation group was significantly less neurotic. the Kolmogorov–Smirnov (K– S) test. May I be happy.ucla. non-judging (“I criticize myself for having irrational or inappropriate emotions”).146 Mindfulness (2011) 2:143–153 respectively. I can pause without immediately reacting”. including LKM. The second target (T2). because Levene’s test for equality of variances was significant for both extraversion.05). In experiment 2. they could use a pet. Positive affect was calculated by summing participant responses to the ten positive affect terms. Within this stream of stimuli. 25)=8. (2008). After a few minutes.31). F(1. my mind wanders off and I’m easily distracted”).25. they should bring their attention back to directing intentions. p=. May you be free from suffering. always appearing in the 9th position. Letters/digits were presented for 3 cycles. someone who naturally evokes feelings of love. 25)=4. enthusiastic. for 8 weeks.666 ms (Dell Dimension 9200 Desktop PC running Windows XP). Surveys were administered in counterbalanced order. After approximately 5 min. and nonreactivity (“In difficult situations. Q. and neuroticism.edu/mpeg/ 05_Loving_Kindness_Meditation. To examine differences between the meditation and control groups. see John et al.. CJM has been a meditator for 8 years and has received instruction in multiple types of meditation. (1988).27. 1996). Subsequently. Meditators were instructed to practice LKM for at least 15 min per day. Negative affect was similarly calculated. In keeping with traditional instruction. an “X. meditators were asked to resume imagining that their breath was emanating from their heart area. T2 was presented either in the 12th position (lag 3) or in the 17th position (lag 8). meditators were instructed to first imagine their breath entering their heart as they inhaled and exiting their heart as they exhaled (this portion of the LKM was adapted from Tiller et al. meditators could either meditate without guidance. nervous. openness to experience. Meditators kept a time log to track their total meditation time. we did not find a significant effect in experiment 1 (this confound is addressed more in the “General Discussion” Section).52.g. p=. (2008). 2006). meditators were instructed to direct three intentions to that mental image: “May you be well. Stimuli were presented on a monitor with a refresh rate of 60 Hz or 16.” The importance of the intentions behind the words. meditators were asked to bring to mind the image of a loved one.
we employed a non-parametric test for repeated measures. Post-test Attentional Blink Analyses As with the pre-test. Participants’ electrocardiogram (ECG) was recorded while they completed the attentional blink. and in lag 3 trials. making a non-parametric procedure the most appropriate test. there was an inter-trial interval varying between 200 and 300 ms.3. Shapiro– Wilkcontrol group−. a K–S test of T1 again revealed no significant differences.665. T2 appeared 800 ms after the onset of T1.828. they only detected an average of 48. and 87. 1997).001). A K–S test found no significant differences between groups at pre-test. This difference between lag intervals for both groups is the attentional blink. At pre-test. Cardiac coherence was defined as the low-frequency power divided by the sum of the very low-frequency (0.001) and meditators (Z=−2. T2 appeared 300 ms after the onset of T1.3%) of T2|T1.897.Mindfulness (2011) 2:143–153 147 or 49. both groups exhibited an attentional blink.5%) of T2|T1 at short lag interval trials. placed in a Lead II configuration. p<.001. On lag 3 trials. Control participants averaged a T2|T1 Experiment 1 Method Participants were tested at two time points (henceforth. we computed an attentional blink metric by subtracting T2| T1 accuracy on lag 3 trials from T2|T1 accuracy at lag 8.).01–0. Meditators. ECG leads were attached after participants completed the questionnaires. T2|T1 data from both the meditation and control groups data deviated from a normal distribution at lag 8 (Shapiro–Wilkmeditation group =. A Wilcoxon signed-ranks test revealed significant differences between lag interval for both controls (Z=−3. p<. p=. FFMQ. the Wilcoxon signed-rank. p<.04).8%) at long lag interval trials. and 26 trials without a T2. Heart rate variability (HRV) was derived from participants’ ECG. whereas in the lag 3 trials. participants were instructed to guess if they did not know) and whether an X (T2) appeared. between long and short lags of T2. which generates the power spectral density from a Fast Fourier Transform of the heart rate (R-R interval). p=. p=.43% (SD=7. At post-test. participants were given the option to practice with trials that did not appear in the experiment (only a minority of participants practiced at post-test). p<.4% (SD=20. spaced approximately 8 weeks apart. 1996).9% (SD=18. Shapiro– Wilkmeditation group =.998 ms. After each trial. Both groups’ data deviated from a normal distribution (Shapiro–Wilkcontrol group =. A t test showed no difference between groups. all participants first filled out the BFI.83. 1998). well within the range in which the attentional blink occurs. an average of 55. Therefore. pretest and post-test). Recordings were taken from three leads. To examine differences between groups. p=. The attentional blink is defined as the difference in detection accuracy of T2.001). given the correct detection of T1 (T2|T1). and PANAS. At lag 8. Between the pre. as practices similar to LKM have been shown to increase HRV (McCraty et al.703. A non-significant difference would provide evidence against the influence of any demand characteristics possibly arising because the meditation group doubled as the experimenters.04–0. each containing 13 lag 3 trials. Once participants felt comfortable.9% (SD=8. at lag 8. detected an average of 82. respectively.863. p<. participants in the mediation condition practiced LKM. All ECG data were filtered offline with a 0. the control group detected an average of 76% (SD=16. A difference between groups in T1 detection might indicate differential engagement in the task.11. Results and Discussion Pre-test Attentional Blink Analyses We began the analysis of the attentional blink by looking for differences in T1 detection.02. p=. Before beginning the attentional blink task. McCraty et al.9%) of T2|T1. sympathovagal balance and cardiac coherence.15 Hz) power. The meditation group’s data deviated from a normal distribution on the short interval trials (Shapiro–Wilk=. Meditators detected 62. both exhibited similar attentional blinks at pre-test. . Participants only completed the FFMQ and PANAS at posttest to examine changes in mindfulness and affect. There were significant differences between lag intervals for both the control group (Z=−3. Sympathovagal balance was defined as the ratio between high frequency (0. well outside of the attentional blink window (Shapiro et al.974.001).6%) of T2|T1.15–0.0 software.001) and the meditation group (Z=−3.5–35-Hz band-pass finite impulse response filter. 13 lag 8 trials.013). Both measures of HRV were computed using Biopac’s AcqKnowlege 4. and the control group’s data deviated from a normal distribution on the long trial intervals (Shapiro–Wilk=. We used two measures of HRV. Inc. After answering the second question. As at pre-test.6%) of T2|T1.and post-tests.01). connected to an MP35 psychophysiology recording platform (Biopac Systems. with an inter-stimulus interval of 50 ms. with lag interval as the repeated measure.04.5 Hz) and low frequency (0. 1995. participants were asked to identify which number appeared (T1.04 Hz) and high-frequency power (Tiller et al. Participants completed four blocks of 52 trials. they then began the attentional blink task. whereas on lag 8 trials.1% (SD=26.
148 Mindfulness (2011) 2:143–153 detection accuracy of 56. and non-reactivity sub-scales is contraindicative. However.and post-tests with a 2 (condition)×2 (time) mixed factorial ANOVA of these attentional blink scores. This is consistent with the lack of affect change indicated by the PANAS. non-judging. exhibited significant changes on the observe (Z =−2. nor was there a difference between pre. 25)=4. There was no difference between groups on the attentional blink. as response bias should universally inflate all sub-scale scores.02) and describe (Z= −2.88) at post-test. Meditators. a 2 (condition)×2 (time) mixed factorial ANOVA of positive affect revealed a significant main effect for Condition.68.18) at pre-test to 17. Just as at pre-test. ECG data remained for 12 in the meditation group and 11 in the control group. p=. Contrary to our expectations. Thus. which was not the case. both groups exhibited similar attentional blinks.23 (SD= 3. any changes in the attentional blink could not be mediated by changes in positive affect.29) than the control group (M=33.12 (one-tailed. however.5. we examined changes across pre.25)=4.99). All course readings related to mindfulness and meditation were done before the pre-test administration of the FFMQ. A 2 (condition)×2 (time) mixed factorial ANOVA of negative affect showed no significant main effects and no interaction for positive affect. improper connections and excessive movement artifact necessitated the elimination of several participants’ heart rate data.6%) and 79. nor did a repeated measures ANOVA reveal a change between testing periods.56. from 20.to post-tests. 2 Means (with standard error bars) of meditators’ and control participants’ difference scores (post-test minus pre-test) on sub-scales of the five factor mindfulness questionnaire (FFMQ) .36. respectively. The Fig. SD= 8. As such. A t test of the derived attentional blink metric (long minus short interval accuracies) of the two groups showed no significant difference. Pre-post Analyses Finally. At post-test. however.32. F(1. There was neither a significant effect for Time. There was not a significant difference. For the PANAS. Meditators had higher positive affect (M=37. 2). We further analyzed this interaction with a post hoc paired-samples t test of the meditators’ negative affect. p=. There was. t (12)=−1. to be reflected in different pre-test FFMQ scores from the control group. No significant differences were found in either sympathovagal balance or cardiac coherence between groups at pre-test. Data from nine in the meditation group and all eight in the control group were available for a repeated measures ANOVA. nor a Condition×Time interaction. In recording the ECG. The lack of change on the acting with awareness. Discussion Eight weeks of LKM training did not alter the attentional blink or affect. contrary to our hypothesis. We would expect co-intervention bias.08. ECG data remained for ten in the meditation group and eight in the control group at pre-test. F(1. meditators were both more observant and more descriptive at post-test compared to pre-test (Fig. Therefore. we examined FFMQ changes between pre. t(12)=1.2%) on short and long lag interval trials. p=.63). Specifically. Meditation time did not significantly correlate with either dimension. Note that while the significant differences on the observe and describe sub-scales may have resulted from response bias—since the meditators were also the experimenters—we do not believe this is the case.04.07 (SD=4.8% (SD= 15. After this pruning. p=.58) to 21. if present. A post hoc paired-samples t test of meditators’ positive affect confirmed that there was no change from pre.and post-tests in positive affect to mediate any blink difference that may have been found.043. experiment 1 failed to support our hypotheses. p=. Because the observe facet of the FFMQ was not normally distributed at pre-test. as with positive affect. meditators evinced no significant change in negative affect. There were no significant main effects or interactions.and post-tests using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test. as the control group’s negative affect increased from 19.81. Bonferroni corrected for two comparisons).3 (uncorrected for multiple comparisons). p= . Meditators’ negative affect decreased between the two time periods.15 (SD=5. SD=7.9% (SD=16. there were also no significant differences at post-test. Meditators scored significantly higher on the observe and describe sub-scales of the FFMQ. No significant changes on any of the five facets were found for the control group. LKM training did significantly alter facets of mindfulness. We also do not believe these results stemmed from co-intervention bias.21 (SD=4.01) subscales. a significant interaction for negative affect.
The K–S test found no significant differences between groups in T1 detection. we established that LKM. Results and Discussion Experiment 2 Method Data collection for experiment 2 began approximately 1 week after the final data collection day in experiment 1. with ECG being continuously recorded. Control participants from experiment 1 were asked to come back for a third round of testing. state changes may be induced immediately following LKM practice since meditation does produce state brain changes (Lutz et al. Immediately prior to beginning the attentional blink. All bins have a range of 10. all participants had equal numbers of exposure to the attentional blink task. p<. p<. the remainder of the LKM is more actively directed. Therefore. as in experiment 1. In examining T2|T1 differences. Only seven participants in the meditation group had sufficiently artifact-free ECG data during both their meditation session and the attentional blink task. Therefore. then a state reduction in blink magnitude can be attributed to a more effective LKM.to 2week interval between their completion of the post-test attentional blink task in experiment 1 and the attentional blink task in experiment 2. We speculate that this increase may be caused by the first portion of meditators’ LKM. Participants experienced a 1. demonstrating Fig. does not reduce the blink (Burgard and May 2010).001). we did not analyze potential differences between these two recording conditions. Moore and Malinowski 2009). 3 Histogram of the number of meditators and control participants in different bins of attentional blink scores (representing the difference in accuracy of T2|T1 detection between lag 8 and lag 3 trials). with the bin number marking each category corresponding to the lowest value for that bin. 2004. In contrast.. they began the attentional blink task immediately after the ECG leads were attached. prompting the use of a non-parametric test. All participants in the meditation and control groups were the same as in experiment 1—there was no attrition. meditators were instructed to meditate (either self-guided or with the mp3 audio file) for 10 min.836. As such. meditators completed the attentional blink task.643. where they focused on their breath emanating from their heart. We further sought to establish that this state change required the previous 8 weeks of LKM training. ECG was recorded during LKM for the meditation group. 2008a). The control group did not meditate. Because control participants did not meditate. 3) were discarded from all analyses in experiment 2. While LKM training did not produce trait changes in affect or attention. resulting from participants’ 8 weeks of meditation training. This practice tends to increase awareness of both the breath and the heart beat. the control group deviated from a normal distribution on long-interval trials (Shapiro–Wilk=. A significant difference in the attentional blink would indicate that LKM produced a state change in attention. Previously. All experimenters left the testing room for this period so that meditators could focus on their practice. We again began analysis of the attentional blink by first probing for differences in T1 detection. We investigated this possibility in experiment 2. a Wilcoxon signed-rank test of the differences between short and long lag interval trials was employed. using words to evoke and sustain emotions. we analyzed the present data with respect to that in Burgard and May (2010). Here. Two outliers among the meditation group on the attentional blink metric were identified using PASW’s (SPSS) box plot rule.Mindfulness (2011) 2:143–153 149 increased propensity for meditators to be aware of their surroundings (observe) is consistent with effects achieved with mindfulness meditation (e. Increases on the describe sub-scale are directly related to the primary activity in LKM. Shapiro–Wilkmeditation group =. Both groups’ data deviated from a normal distribution (Shapiro–Wilkcontrol group =.66.g. so we would not expect that portion to increase the propensity for observation. practiced immediately before the attentional blink task in mediation-naïve participants. These outliers (see Fig.001). If the meditators in experiment 2 showed a reduced attentional blink compared to the meditators in Burgard and May (2010). Lutz et al. Sympathovagal balance and cardiac coherence were used to measure changes in affect. After LKM. The two outliers in the meditation group can be seen in the rightmost bins . p=. We report this analysis at the conclusion of the “Results and Discussion” Section. They were informed that a follow-up study to experiment 1 was being conducted.001.
01). n=9 meditators during the attentional blink.005). including increased gamma power (Lutz et al. 2008a) during meditation with just 1 week of training. Z=1. equivalently. Thus. Due to excessive artifact.7%). to demonstrate that meditation can reduce the attentional blink. experiment 2 data) General Discussion Eight weeks of training in loving-kindness meditation produced a state. and n=10 control participants during the attentional blink). Thus. A direct comparison between the meditation group’s data with the meditation group’s data in Burgard and May (2010). The same experiment with participants who did not train in LKM did not have this effect (Burgard and May 2010).8. p=. Fig. while the participants in experiment 2 had a blink magnitude of 10% (SD=10%).150 Mindfulness (2011) 2:143–153 significant differences for both the control group (Z=−3. the blink reduction reported here occurred after far less meditation training than that undertaken by participants in Slagter et al. we compared the current results with those reported in Burgard and May (2010). training. following 8 weeks of LKM practice (LKM. p=. SD=9. 2004) and increased activity in the anterior cingulate/medial prefrontal cortex (Lutz et al. meditators had a significantly smaller attentional blink (M=10. Meditators in Burgard and May (2010) had an average attentional blink magnitude of 27% (SD=14. the state effect we observed in experiment 2 can be attributed to the effects of 8 weeks of LKM training. we previously found that LKM did not produce a state reduction in the attentional blink (Burgard and May 2010). we estimated the size of a practice effect by subtracting the attentional blink scores for the control group in experiment 2 from their scores at pre-test in experiment 1.04 (onetailed. Bonferroni corrected for two comparisons. p=. This is the first study to show that LKM influences attention. However. practice effect adjusted data from Burgard and May 2010). Contrary to our expectations. when the task was undertaken shortly after a period of meditation. Interestingly. change in attention. we have no evidence of a change in affect as a result of LKM. Fig.1. but consistent with experiment 1. which was conducted shortly after experiment 1. LKM followed by completion of the AB. experiment 1 post-test data). This is consistent with documented physiological state effects. and the attentional blink scores of the trained meditators revealed a significant effect. Consistent with our hypothesis. Experiment 1 failed to find a reduced attentional blink in those that had trained in LKM for 8 weeks.8.01 (one-tailed. Experiment 2 is the third study to date. Z=1. which involved 10–12 h of . Their participants completed a 3-month mindfulness meditation retreat. no training. and LKM just prior to completion of the AB. however. the meditation group deviated from a normal distribution (Shapiro–Wilk=. As in experiment 1.002) and the meditation group (Z=−2. 4). A consequent K–S test of attentional blink scores revealed a significant difference between groups. following Slagter et al.27. This practice effect estimate (5%) was then subtracted from each of the attentional blink scores of the meditation group in Burgard and May (2010. There were no differences in sympathovagal balance or cardiac coherence between groups or between the two conditions of recording for meditators. following 8 weeks of LKM practice (no LKM. Participants in experiment 2 completed the attentional blink task three times (the first two occurring in experiment 1) compared to just once for the participants in Burgard and May (2010). To examine the influence of training on this attentional blink state effect. (2007).7%) than control participants (M=22%. p=. The attentional blink of meditators in experiment 2 was significantly smaller than the attentional blink of meditators in Burgard and May (2010). To correct for this. training. 4 Mean attentional blink scores (with standard error bars) under four different conditions: no loving-kindness meditation (LKM) prior to completing the AB (no LKM. completion of the AB without a preceding LKM. when those same practitioners meditated immediately before the attentional blink task in experiment 2.52. (2007) and van Leeuwen et al. On the attentional blink metric (long lag interval trials minus short lag interval trials). this estimate could be added to the meditation group’s data in experiment 2). as measured by the attentional blink. they did have a significantly reduced attentional blink.5%. A K–S test between these practice effect-corrected attentional blink scores. therefore. (2009). would confound reductions in the attentional blink with a practice effect. experiment 1 pre-test data). In meditation-naïve participants. p=. no training. ECG data from several participants were again excluded from analysis (remaining n=9 meditators while meditating. 8 weeks of LKM training decreased the attentional blink. both groups exhibited an attentional blink. Bonferroni adjusted for two comparisons). SD=16%). without having previously practiced LKM (LKM. but not a trait.
Finally. which may be meditation-type dependent. As the practitioner is directing intentions such as “May you be well” and “May you be happy. Future work may also address limitations of the present research. participants were not randomly assigned to the meditation or control groups. 2009. Comparative contemplative research would help delineate the mechanisms underlying an improved attentional blink and would also provide much needed data on the time course of meditation-induced physiological and behavioral changes. This is underscored by Carmody and Baer (2008).09 h. 1995. McCraty et al. LKM may share mechanisms. Barnhofer et al. wherein approximately 3/4 of the participants were female. though we do not expect that a significant difference would have otherwise arisen. (2004) and Lutz et al. see Dorjee (2010). 2010). Gender differences have not been reported with respect to the attentional blink. we hypothesized that this increase would mediate a decreased attentional blink. the null effect reported in experiment 1 is confounded with this personality difference. For more arguments regarding the importance of comparative contemplative research. However. Since LKM can increase positive affect. note that whether their results stemmed from a state or trait effect was not evaluated and remains unclear). focused attention meditation may increase attentional control. Comparative contemplative research such as this would also help elucidate the time course of physiological and behavioral changes. more/less efficacious for males. At 10 h per day. are agnostic about the underlying mechanism(s) that produced them. 2008b) has not been. attentional investment ability. rather than affect. we incentivized adherence to the LKM training program by yoking it to a course. Mindfulness is one possibility. Additional measures of positive affect in future studies are necessary to better establish the presence/absence of mediation. with reductions in the attentional blink found in Slagter et al. gender. as well as increased their ability to label emotions. This may reflect either a lack of research or null findings. 2008a). 2001. affect. even as little as 4–5 days (Tang et al. is as well. 1998). (2009). and appropriate controls—would help determine whether attentional control. 2004. thereby increasing the attentional blink. or initial mindfulness and affect. Experiment 2 did not assess state changes in mindfulness. there was a gender imbalance in both groups. and/or other variables are responsible for observed reductions in the attentional blink. such that meditators can more effectively choose not to invest as much attention to stimuli. 2007. (2008a) suggest that the results of experiment 2 may be replicated with less training. they are to bring it back to the breath. For example. Alternatively. however. Lutz et al. This type of meditation might cause an overinvestment of attention (see Olivers and Nieuwenhuis 2006) on attentional blink stimuli. no significant increase in positive affect was found in experiment 1. Olivers and Nieuwenhuis’ (2006) positive affect hypothesis predicts that an increase in positive affect would reduce the attentional blink. However. personality dimensions. the practitioner attempts to keep their attention on an object of focus. Shorter-term meditation. loving-kindness meditators. While there were no group differences in experiment 2 in age. In short. Lutz et al. In focused attention meditation. retreatants meditated for approximately 840 h each. then. While LKM is an emotion-focused meditation. While mindfulness meditation and LKM have been associated with a reduced attentional blink. Further examination of the relationships between attention and mindfulness is required. Other individual differences besides gender may also mediate or moderate the effects of meditation. Zeiden et al. our results may be mediated specifically by changes in attention. relative to the control group. such as the breath. Because participation in the meditation group required a significantly higher time and effort investment than the control group. Carter et al. What these mechanisms are remain to be established. is clearly associated with sizeable physiological and behavioral changes (Brefczynski-Lewis et al. These results suggest non-linear growth patterns. Future work comparing four cohorts—mindfulness meditators. Since neuroticism is associated with a larger attentional blink (MacLean and Arnell 2010). the rate at which effects accrue is unclear. Long-term meditation. LKM may be easier/harder. such as that undertaken by monks. brooders had a higher shift with mindfulness . attention may still be trained. and they must bring it back to directing intentions. the relationship between gender and meditation is unknown.Mindfulness (2011) 2:143–153 151 meditation per day. which can register increases in positive affect (McCraty et al. When the meditator notices that their attention has wandered. those in the meditation group had lower neuroticism scores on the Big Five Inventory.” their attention will inevitably wander. Participants in experiment 2 achieved similar results in less than 1% of this time (8. focused attention meditators. In experiment 1. while experiment 1 demonstrated that 8 weeks of LKM training enhanced practitioners’ propensity to be observant. Our results. these changes in mindfulness did not reduce the attentional blink. and experiment 2 found no differences in the ECG. Specifically. who found that meditation time is weakly to moderately correlated with several outcome variables. Alternatively. For example. a more rigorous experimental design should be employed in future studies. The physiological changes demonstrated with 1 week of meditation by Lutz et al. facets of mindfulness. focused attention meditation (see Lutz et al. however. (2007) and van Leeuwen et al. (2010) found that scores on the “Ruminative Responses Scale” moderated meditation-induced shifts in EEG laterality for different types of meditation.
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