Mindful evolution is the process of applying mindfulness practice to new situations, thus expanding its remit and increasing its usefulness. This has brought mindfulness into areas such as psychotherapy, neuroscience, education, leadership, and even daily life in the modern world.
Mindfulness evolved in the Buddhist tradition as a means of developing attention and awareness, particularly for those experiencing psychological distress or suffering from mental illness (Lager 1978). Today, mindfulness is most often defined as the ability to be aware of one’s thoughts and emotions while still paying attention to them without judgment.
Behavioral research on the benefits of mindfulness has demonstrated that it reduces stress, improves sleep, and enhances physical health. In addition, it helps people to develop a more positive attitude and a healthier lifestyle.
As a result of these findings, it has been proposed that mindfulness practices could be used as a psychotherapeutic intervention. However, the effectiveness of mindfulness in psychotherapy has not been fully established.
While the empirical research on the effects of mindfulness meditation has shown a number of positive results, it has also produced mixed results for some conditions. Specifically, the effect of mindfulness on cognitive biases has been more difficult to measure.
The present study attempted to address this gap in the existing literature by investigating whether mindfulness decreases cognitive biases. We asked participants to answer 22 standard bias questions, and a portion of the respondents were randomly pre-assigned to a condition that induced mindfulness.
On 19 of the 22 biases, subjects induced to be mindful showed significantly reduced susceptibility to that particular bias. This is a very large effect and suggests that mindfulness increases rationality, which is of great interest to psychologists who seek to increase the effectiveness of their work.
In addition, mindfulness decreased the responses to three other biases: overconfidence, mental accounting, and anchoring. This was a surprising finding and may suggest that mindfulness is beneficial for the brain, which is known to be vulnerable to these biases.
Moreover, mindfulness increased the responses to two of the novelty traits: seeking and producing. Although this is not a strong indication that mindfulness can increase engagement, future interventions may seek to increase engagement by targeting these two trait responses.
Finally, mindful people were less likely to use a negative expected value gambling strategy than a mindless person was. This is because they have an aversion to the idea of risking their money on an uncertain outcome.
This result corroborates other studies showing that mindfulness improves decision making, as shown by the study of Zettle and Hayes (1986). They found that the average meditator in their control group made more rational choices than the mindless control.