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Universiteit Leiden

Optimize adaptive behavior through meditation!

Optimize adaptive behavior through meditation! Meditation by Tarcio Saraiva

Stuck in a rut? When feeling that your thinking has become rigid, what should you do for promoting a more flexible thinking? Meditate!

Meditation has become a popular topic of psychological studies over the past two decades. Nowadays, it is common knowledge that meditation holds many benefits for general well being, by reducing stress and anxiety. Adding to the previous benefits, recent studies have suggested that meditation has specific effects on cognition and behavior.

The two main meditative practices that affect behavior are Open Monitoring meditation (OMM) and Focused Attention meditation (FAM). OMM requires the meditators to be aware of any experiences that may arise during the process, while FAM requires the meditators to focus solely on one thought or object, such as a candle or a flame. These practices differ not only on the demands they make of the meditators, but also on the effects they yield on them.

While many studies focused on the differential effects of OMM and FAM on processes such as attention, we were the first to investigate the relationship between these meditative practices and adaptive behavior.

To test this relationship, we recruited 36 participants who had never meditated before (naïve) from the University of Leiden. Half of the participants (18) listened to an audio track of OMM, while the other half (18) listened to an audio track of FAM, each track lasting approximately 20 minutes. Afterwards, all participants performed the “Simon” task, in which they had to discriminate between irrelevant information from relevant, as quickly as possible.

Our findings suggest that participants in the OMM were better at adjusting their behavior in trial-to-trial basis, or in other words from “moment to moment.” These findings support the notion that OMM and FAM instantly affect adaptive behavior, even in participants who have never meditated before.

Colzato, L.S., Sellaro, R., Samara, I. & Hommel, B. (2015). Meditation-induced cognitive-control states regulate response-conflict adaptation: Evidence from trial-to-trial adjustments in the Simon task. Consciousness and Cognition 35, 110-114. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2015.04.012

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