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Many of us go through our daily lives on autopilot, not fully aware of our conscious experiences. In a discussion moderated by Steve Paulson, executive producer and host of To the Best of Our Knowledge, neuroscientists Richard Davidson and Amishi Jha and clinical mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn explore the role of consciousness in mental and physical health, how we can train our minds to be more flexible and adaptable, and cutting-edge neuroscience findings about the transformation of consciousness through mindfulness and contemplative practice. The following is an edited transcript of the discussion that occurred February 6, 2013, 7:00-8:15 PM, at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.

Many of us go through our daily lives on autopilot, not fully aware of our conscious experiences. In a discussion moderated by Steve Paulson, executive producer and host of To the Best of Our Knowledge, neuroscientists Richard Davidson and Amishi Jha and clinical mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn explore the role of consciousness in mental and physical health, how we can train our minds to be more flexible and adaptable, and cutting-edge neuroscience findings about the transformation of consciousness through mindfulness and contemplative practice. The following is an edited transcript of the discussion that occurred February 6, 2013, 7:00-8:15 PM, at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City.
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Terror management theory posits that people tend to respond defensively to reminders of death, including worldview defense, self-esteem striving, and suppression of death thoughts. Seven experiments examined whether trait mindfulness--a disposition characterized by receptive attention to present experience--reduced defensive responses to mortality salience (MS). Under MS, less mindful individuals showed higher worldview defense (Studies 1-3) and self-esteem striving (Study 5), yet more mindful individuals did not defend a constellation of values theoretically associated with mindfulness (Study 4). To explain these findings through proximal defense processes, Study 6 showed that more mindful individuals wrote about their death for a longer period of time, which partially mediated the inverse association between trait mindfulness and worldview defense. Study 7 demonstrated that trait mindfulness predicted less suppression of death thoughts immediately following MS. The discussion highlights the relevance of mindfulness to theories that emphasize the nature of conscious processing in understanding responses to threat. Keywords: mindfulness, mortality salience, self-determination theory, terror management theory DOI: 10.1037/a0019388

Mindfulness is an attribute of consciousness long believed to promote well-being. This research provides a theoretical and empirical examination of the role of mindfulness in psychological well-being. The development and psychometric properties of the dispositional Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) are described. Correlational, quasi-experimental, and laboratory studies then show that the MAAS measures a unique quality of consciousness that is related to a variety of well-being constructs, that differentiates mindfulness practitioners from others, and that is associated with enhanced self-awareness. An experience-sampling study shows that both dispositional and state mindfulness predict self-regulated behavior and positive emotional states. Finally, a clinical intervention study with cancer patients demonstrates that increases in mindfulness over time relate to declines in mood disturbance and stress.

In keeping with cognitive appraisal models of emotion, it was hypothesized that sadness and anger would exert different influences on causal judgments. Two experiments provided initial support for this hypothesis. Sad Ss perceived situationally caused events as more likely (Experiment 1) and situational forces more responsible for an ambiguous event (Experiment 2) than angry Ss, who, in contrast, perceived events caused by humans as more likely and other people as more responsible. Experiments 3, 4, and 5 showed that the experience of these emotions, rather than their cognitive constituents, mediates these effects. The nonemotional exposure to situational or human agency information did not influence causal judgments (Experiment 3), whereas the induction of sadness and anger without explicit agency information did (Experiments 4 and 5). Discussion is focused on the influence of emotion on social judgment.
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The experience of aversion is shaped by multiple physiological and psychological factors including one's expectations. Recent work has shown that expectancy manipulation can alter perceptions of aversive events and concomitant brain activation. Accruing evidence indicates a primary role of altered expectancies in the placebo effect. Here, we probed the mechanism by which expectation attenuates sensory taste transmission by examining how brain areas activated by misleading information during an expectancy period modulate insula and amygdala activation to a highly aversive bitter taste. In a rapid event-related fMRI design, we showed that activations in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to a misleading cue that the taste would be mildly aversive predicted decreases in insula and amygdala activation to the highly aversive taste. OFC and rACC activation to the misleading cue were also associated with less aversive ratings of that taste. Additional analyses revealed consistent results demonstrating functional connectivity among the OFC, rACC, and insula. Altering expectancies of upcoming aversive events are shown here to depend on robust functional associations among brain regions implicated in prior work on the placebo effect.
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Biological systems are particularly prone to variation, and the authors argue that such variation must be regarded as important data in its own right. The authors describe a method in which individual differences are studied within the framework of a general theory of the population as a whole and illustrate how this method can be used to address three types of issues: the nature of the mechanisms that give rise to a specific ability, such as mental imagery; the role of psychological or biological mediators of environmental challenges, such as the biological bases for differences in dispositional mood; and the existence of processes that have nonadditive effects with behavioral and physiological variables, such as factors that modulate the response to stress and its effects on the immune response.
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Buddhist meditation practice is perceived as non-relational. Yet a serious meditator develops an intimacy with herself that is an asset to being in a healthy relationship. In this essay, using composite profiles of patients, I pursue my interest in relationships and family life as a path to mental health and a home to enlightened experience. The intimacy of a relationship with oneself, with another and within family provides a container that may enable us to let go of our fixed sense of self.

Publisher's description: Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art documents the growing presence of Buddhist perspectives in contemporary culture. This shift began in the nineteenth century and is now pervasive in many aspects of everyday experience. In the arts especially, the increasing importance of process over product has promoted a profound change in the relationship between artist and audience. But while artists have been among the most perceptive interpreters of Buddhism in the West, art historians and critics have been slow to develop the intellectual tools to analyze the impact of Buddhist concepts. This timely, multi-faceted volume explores the relationships between Buddhist practice and the contemporary arts in lively essays by writers from a range of disciplines and in revealing interviews with some of the most influential artists of our time. Elucidating the common ground between the creative mind, the perceiving mind, and the meditative mind, the contributors tackle essential questions about the relationship of art and life. Among the writers are curators, art critics, educators, and Buddhist commentators in psychology, literature, and cognitive science. They consider the many Western artists today who recognize the Buddhist notion of emptiness, achieved through focused meditation, as a place of great creative potential for the making and experiencing of art. The artists featured in the interviews, all internationally recognized, include Maya Lin, Bill Viola, and Ann Hamilton. Extending earlier twentieth-century aesthetic interests in blurring the boundaries of art and life, the artists view art as a way of life, a daily practice, in ways parallel to that of the Buddhist practitioner. Their works, woven throughout the book, richly convey how Buddhism has been both a source for and a lens through which we now perceive art.

Buddhism has made its way into American popular culture, particularly within the arena of death and dying. The growing influence of Buddhism on the American way of dying has been fostered through its connection with the American hospice movement. This paper describes the developing contact between Buddhism and hospice and documents the efforts of several prominent Buddhist organizations to revolutionize American death practices. The Buddhist approach to death has captured the interest of an American public attracted to its nonsectarian language of spirituality and pragmatic techniques for dealing with death.

(RNS) The mindfulness movement has seeped into Silicon Valley, Capitol Hill, and even the United States Military Academy at West Point. Next stop: the voting booth. By Daniel Burke.

Environmentalists have been criticizing the ethics of business people concerning the natural environment. Citing Thomas Berry as an example, this paper attempts to bring his three abstract values (presence, subjectivity, and communion) closer to the understanding of the average business person through meditation. The introduction describes business ethics in terms of relationships to the individual, or the ethical ‘I’ to the natural environment, or the ethical ‘You’ and to interpersonal relationships, or the ethical ‘We.’ Meditation is also defined, according to Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1986), as a meditative experience together with a period of reflection and small-group discussion. More specifically, meditation takes on three forms. Part one describes nondiscursive meditation in the context of what Berry means by presence. The problem addressed here is how to meet and cultivate the ethical ‘I.’ Part two will deal with semidiscursive meditation in the context of what Berry means by subjectivity, or the ethical ‘I’ in relation to the earth. The earth then becomes the ethical ‘You.’ Part three will deal with Berry's definition of communion, or the ethical ‘We.’ The practice of discursive meditation gradually leads to what Thomas Berry calls a renewed ‘visionary experience.’ The article concludes with a redefinition of business ethics in terms of our relationships to ourselves, as human persons, to the earth as our living environment, and to each other as members of the human community. The redefinition of our relationships through meditation is ‘visionary,’ or a new ‘paradigm,’ that, hopefully, will lead to the renewed ethical practice that other environmentalists are also advocating, for example, Arnold Berleant.

This study reviews literature concerning any effects meditation may have upon the psychological health and practice of psychotherapists. A number of anecdotal accounts were explored in order to extract key claims made for meditation. These claims were found to include that meditation promotes attentive ability, a calm psychophysiological state, heightened awareness, and a reflexive self (an objective, observant sub-personality). It was suggested that these effects were personally therapeutic, and that this could facilitate therapists' practice. Of the experimental studies reviewed, most found that meditation had significant positive effects upon various measures of psychophysiological health. These included increases in measures of self-efficacy and attentional absorption, and decreases in indicators of anxiety, stress, and depression. However, many experimental studies were methodologically flawed. These problems were often related to characteristics of meditation that render it problematic to investigate. For example, it may take at least one year of daily practice to bring about effects, and researchers have found it difficult to complete experiments where randomly assigned participants all adhere to such a demanding regimen. In addition, current quantitative research techniques may not be sophisticated enough to allow the effects of meditation to be accurately gauged. It is suggested that qualitative techniques could be more successful in exploring the effects of meditation.

Despite the call for multilevel observation of negative affect, including multiple physiological systems, too little empirical research has been conducted in infants and young children, and physiology-affect associations are not consistently reported. We examined changes in heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and preejection period in 24-month-olds across four increasingly challenging, emotion-eliciting tasks. We predicted that changes in cardiac reactivity would be systematically related to changes in negative affect. Results largely support the predictions with one important exception. With increasing distress across the tasks, HR increased and RSA decreased. However, no significant changes in PEP were observed. HR was associated with negative affect during all tasks, and changes in HR were related to changes in negative affect. PEP and negative affect were associated, but only marginally so. Within-subject analyses confirmed the predicted associations. Finally, the associations between physiology and negative affect were different for boys and girls. We discuss these results in the context of implications for future research on cardiac-affect associations in young children.
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We evaluated the efficacy of a mindful parenting program for changing parents’ mindfulness, child management practices, and relationships with their early adolescent youth and tested whether changes in parents’ mindfulness mediated changes in other domains. We conducted a pilot randomized trial with 65 families and tested an adapted version of the Strengthening Families Program: For Parent and Youth 10–14 that infused mindfulness principles and practices against the original program and a delayed intervention control group. Results of pre-post analyses of mother and youth-report data showed that the mindful parenting program generally demonstrated comparable effects to the original program on measures of child management practices and stronger effects on measures of mindful parenting and parent–youth relationship qualities. Moreover, mediation analyses indicated that the mindful parenting program operated indirectly on the quality of parent–youth relationships through changes in mindful parenting. Overall, the findings suggest that infusing mindful parenting activities into existing empirically validated parenting programs can enhance their effects on family risk and protection during the transition to adolescence.

This article reports the development of the 54-item College Chronic Life Stress Survey (CCLSS) and its use in prospective studies of the relationship between chronic stress and psychological distress in college students. Study 1 demonstrated the CCLSS's test-retest reliability and concurrent validity (best friend corroboration of specific items). Study 1 also revealed differential endorsement of specific CCLSS items as a function of gender and year in college. Study 2 cross-sectional and prospective analyses showed that CCLSS chronic stress was a significant predictor of distress. Study 3 cross-sectional analyses showed that the CCLSS effects withstood the statistical control of neuroticism. The findings suggest the value of future research on chronic stress and demonstrate the utility of the CCLSS in studies with college students.

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