“Mindfulness slows things down so we can be more deliberate in our critical thinking process.” – Lalith Gunaratne
“Critical thinking is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.”
Currently, there is a major deficit in critical thinking skills being taught in schools. Only around 5% of U.S. high school seniors demonstrated the ability to not only comprehend text, but also to analyze and evaluate it. This underscores the need to find ways to improve critical thinking.
Mindfulness, the ability to pay attention in the present moment without judgment, affects our thought processes in mostly positive ways. It has been shown to improve the ability to control our thinking, termed executive function and the extremely important ability to think critically (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/cognition/). Because of this, mindfulness training is being applied in schools to help facilitate learning (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/school/).
Because it is such a critical consequence of mindfulness, it is important to further investigate the effects of mindfulness on critical thinking. In today’s Research News article “Does Mindfulness Enhance Critical Thinking? Evidence for the Mediating Effects of Executive Functioning in the Relationship between Mindfulness and Critical Thinking”
Noone and colleagues study the relationship between mindfulness and executive function to explore whether mindfulness may produce its effects on critical thinking as a result of its effects on executive function. They measured mindfulness, critical thinking, and executive function in college students.
They found that the levels of mindfulness of the students were not directly related to critical thinking performance. On the other hand, they found strong relationships between executive function components and critical thinking. In particular, the updating component of executive function was strongly related to critical thinking and the Inhibition component was moderately related. Updating involves the active revision and monitoring of thinking and the continuous updating of working memory. In other words, critical thinking requires the ability to constantly revise thought processes as ideas are analyzed. Inhibition involves the suppression of intrusive thoughts or responses in order to keep attention on the problem at hand. In other words, critical thinking requires the ability to control the interference from irrelevant thinking and thereby concentrating on the problem. Interestingly, mindfulness appeared to have a small relationship with critical thinking. The observing component of mindfulness was positively related to the inhibition component of executive function which is directly facilitative of critical thinking.
At least in the current analysis, mindfulness appears to be indirectly and only mildly related to critical thinking through its observing facet. It appears to do so by improving attention which screens out thoughts that are not pertinent to working on the problem. It allows for better focus and therefore better critical thinking.
So, think more critically with mindfulness.
“Mindfulness practice is the kale to my high-stimulus lifestyle, but man cannot live by kale alone. I’m balancing my diet with the whole three course meal. Mindfulness, Mind Yoga and Introspective Intelligence are all practices to have on our plates.” – Jeremy Sherman
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies