Here are a couple of articles about the pathetic failure of quick mindfulness training from the British Research Digest:
Brief mindfulness training does not foster empathy, and can even make narcissists worse – Research Digest – May 2017 – by Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) Staff Writer
“for narcissistic people, their cognitive empathy was actually reduced.”
Sharing with others, helping people in need, consoling those who are distressed. All these behaviours can be encouraged by empathy – by understanding what other people are thinking and feeling, and sharing their emotions. Enhance empathy, especially in those who tend to have problems with it – like narcissists – and society as a whole might benefit. So how can it be done?
In fact, the cultivation of empathy is a “presumed benefit” of mindfulness training, note the authors of a new study, published in Self and Identity, designed to investigate this experimentally.
People who are “mindfully aware” focus on the present moment, without judgment. So, it’s been argued, they should be better able to resist getting caught up in their own thoughts, freeing them to think more about the mental states of other people.
Anna Ridderinkhof, at the University of Amsterdam, and her colleagues divided 161 adult volunteers into three groups. Each completed questionnaires assessing their levels of narcissistic and also autistic traits.
One group spent five minutes in a guided mindfulness meditation, in which they were encouraged to focus on the physical sensations of breathing, while observing any thoughts, without judging them.
The second group took part in a relaxation exercise (so any effects of stress relief alone could be examined). People in the control group were invited to let their minds wander, and to be immersed in their thoughts and feelings.
After these exercises, the researchers tested the volunteers’ propensity to feel cognitive empathy, via the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, which involves identifying emotions from photographs of people’s eyes, and they also tested their affective empathy, by analysing how much emotional concern they showed toward a player who was socially rejected in a ball game.
Ridderinkhof’s team predicted that mindfulness training would improve empathy in the volunteers who needed it most: in people with high levels of autistic or narcissistic traits.
While there was no overall effect on empathy in the mindfulness group, further analysis revealed that, compared with the control and relaxation groups combined, non-narcissists who completed the mindfulness exercise did show a slight improvement specifically in cognitive empathy, but for narcissistic people, their cognitive empathy was actually reduced.
Since volunteers were encouraged not to judge any thoughts they had during the mindfulness meditation, this might indeed have helped non-narcissists let go of self-critical thoughts, allowing them to think more about the mental states of others, the researchers suggest.
“By contrast, it may have ironically ‘licensed’ narcissistic individuals to focus more exclusively on their self-aggrandising thoughts.” As a result, they may have thought even less about the mental states of others.
Critics may argue that a single five-minute mindfulness meditation exercise is simply not enough, and that improvements in empathy – in non-narcissists, at least – might perhaps show up with longer sessions.
While the research team thinks this is worth exploring, there is evidence from earlier studies (that lacked a proper control group) that five-minute sessions can increase accuracy on a mind-reading test, for example.
It was reasonable to opt for a brief session in this study, they argue.
Original article above: Does mindfulness meditation increase empathy? An experiment
Perhaps teens are too cynical to benefit from mindfulness, say authors of latest negative school trial – Research Digest – Sep 2017 – by Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest
In the UK, more and more of our children are learning mindfulness at school.
The Mindfulness in Schools project claims that over 4000 of our teachers are now trained in the practice.
However, some experts are concerned that the roll-out of mindfulness has raced ahead of the evidence base, which paints a mixed picture.
Following their recent failure to find any benefits of a school mindfulness programme for teenagers (contrary to some earlier more positive findings), a research team led by Catherine Johnson at Flinders University has now reported in Behaviour Research and Therapy the results of their latest school trial, which included new features in the mindfulness intervention, such as parental involvement and better designed homework materials, intended to maximise the programme’s effectiveness.
However, once again the mindfulness programme led to no observable benefits.
The nine-week Mindfulness Programme used in the current trial was based on the popular .b Mindfulness in School’s curriculum,
Three hundred and seventy-eight teenagers from four urban schools in Australia were allocated to take part in the weekly 40- to 60-minute training sessions
Another 182 teens from the same schools acted as controls and did not participate in any of the mindfulness classes. The average age of the participating pupils was 13 years.
Compared with earlier trials, the mindfulness programme included additional elements designed to maximise engagement and the chances for the programme being a success.
The mindfulness training was delivered by the trial’s lead author who is a highly experienced mindfulness practitioner and trainer.
The participating pupils completed a wide range of psychological measures at baseline, after the nine-week programme was complete, and again at six- and 12-month follow up, including questionnaires tapping their levels of anxiety and depression, their concerns with their weight, their overall wellbeing, and their levels of everyday mindfulness.
Participants who completed the mindfulness programme showed no benefits on any measure, either immediately or after the programme or at follow-up.
(…prompting the researchers to suggest this approach may be a poor use of resources).
These results may not surprise readers who are sceptical of all the hype around mindfulness.
The researchers, who are mindfulness enthusiasts, wonder if perhaps the early teen years are not the optimum time to teach mindfulness.