Priming Improves the Effectiveness of Mindfulness to Reduce Stress and Improve Attention
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
One of the primary effects of mindfulness training is an improvement in the ability to pay attention to the task at hand and ignore interfering stimuli. This is an important consequence of mindfulness training and produces improvements in thinking, reasoning, and creativity. The importance of heightened attentional ability to the individual’s ability to navigate the demands of complex modern life cannot be overstated. It helps in school, at work, in relationships, or simply driving a car. Priming occurs when information about a stimulus is presented beforehand. It is not known if priming regarding mindfulness will enhance its effectiveness.
In today’s Research News article “The Effect of a Brief Mindfulness Practice on Perceived Stress and Sustained Attention: Does Priming Matter?” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9167905/) Ueberholz and Fiocco
Recruited undergraduate students for an online experiment. They were randomly assigned to either prime pus 10-minute meditation, 10-minute meditation only, or prime only conditions. The prime consisted of a mindfulness infographic including information on mindfulness, brain changes with mindfulness, and behavioral changes with mindfulness. The 10-minute audio guided meditation consisted in breath following and body scan meditations. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, perceived stress, and sustained attention with a go/no go task.
They found that after training both the primed and no-prime meditation groups had significantly lower levels of perceived stress and fewer omission errors than the prime only group. On the other hand only the primed group had improved sustained attention as measured by commission errors and correct responses.
The results suggest that as seen in many studies meditation practice reduces perceived stress and improves attention. The results also suggest that priming with mindfulness information prior to meditation increases the impact of meditation on sustained attention.
So, potentiate the effects of meditation with priming.
“Research indicates mindfulness and meditation can help us allocate cognitive resources more efficiently. Sustained attention in particular appears to be enhanced in those who practice.” – William Stafford
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Ueberholz, R. Y., & Fiocco, A. J. (2022). The Effect of a Brief Mindfulness Practice on Perceived Stress and Sustained Attention: Does Priming Matter?. Mindfulness, 1–12. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-022-01913-8
The objective of the current study was to investigate the effect of a brief mindfulness practice on perceived stress and sustained attention, and to determine whether priming the benefits of mindfulness meditation enhances this effect.
Two hundred and twenty undergraduate students were randomly assigned to a control condition (CC), a meditation condition (MC), or a priming + meditation condition (PMC). Baseline and post-treatment measures included subjective stress ratings on a visual analog scale (VAS) and performance on a Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), determined by reaction time coefficient of variability (RTCV) and three measures of accuracy: correct responses, errors of commission, and errors of omission.
Repeated measures analyses revealed that both the MC and the PMC displayed a decline in perceived stress relative to the CC. Analyses further revelated that the MC and PMC displayed fewer errors of omission relative to the CC. However, only the PMC displayed better performance relative to the CC with respect to total correct response and errors of commission. There were no significant between-group differences for RTCV.
These findings are novel and provide a foundation to further investigate the effect of priming on mindfulness engagement and its potential benefits.