Meditation has been touted to have many benefits and many of these are supported by neuroscience and cognitive sciences in general. And the latest research gives some support to helping with becoming less error prone.
Let’s also be a bit cautious in interpretations. Meditation research (or rather the popular press that picks this up and meditation practitioners) has been notorious for over reporting positive effects and under reporting negative effects of mediation.
So what did they find?
Lin et al. at Washington State University recruited around 200 volunteers for this study. This an impressive size for this type of study. They aimed to research how open monitoring meditation affected error recognition.
Open monitoring meditation is mediation that focuses on one’s own feelings and mind, rather than
trying to focus on a single thing such as a candle or one’s breath, as some forms of meditation do. This encourages participants to become an observer of their feelings and emotions as their mind wanders in meditation.
The participants, all novices to meditation, were taken through a 20-minute open monitoring exercise before taking some distraction tasks while being wired up to EEG (measuring brain waves). EEG signals show a signal, known as error positivity, when one makes a mistake. Simply put the brain recognises you have made a mistake and gives itself a little jolt.
The researchers reported an increase in strength of this signal showing that the brain and person has increased their sensitivity to making errors. Of note is that this is after just one 20-minute session with novices. Impressive!
The downside to be noted, is this did not translate, in this study, into improved performance. However, the researchers, and I also, assume that this would improve performance over time, simply because if there is greater recognition, the chance of the brain changing its responses are far greater. More research to be done.
But for now, we now know that open monitoring mediation can certainly help increase recognition of mistakes — and that is a good thing.
Another one in the cap for meditation.
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Lin, Eckerle, Peng, Moser. On Variation in Mindfulness Training: A Multimodal Study of Brief Open Monitoring Meditation on Error Monitoring. Brain Sciences, 2019; 9 (9): 226 DOI: 10.3390/brainsci9090226
Photo by Anthony Tori on Unsplash
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