Scientific article

Meditation training influences mind wandering and mindless reading

Published inPsychology of consciousness, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 12-33
Publication date2016

It is challenging for individuals to maintain their attention on ongoing cognitive tasks without being distracted by task-unrelated thought. The wandering mind is thus a considerable obstacle when attention must be maintained over time. Mental training through meditation has been proposed as an effective method of attenuating the ebb and flow of attention to thoughts and feelings that distract from one's foremost present goals. We provide evidence from 2 longitudinal studies that intensive meditation training in focused attention and monitoring meditation is associated with attenuated lapses of attention while reading. Across 2 studies, participants completed a reading task requiring ongoing error monitoring to detect episodes of semantic inconsistency. In a preliminary study, training participants were assessed at the beginning and end of a 3-month shamatha meditation retreat and again 7 years later. In a second study, training and experiencematched control participants were assessed at the beginning and end of a 1-month insight meditation retreat. Across both studies, training participants engaged in less mind wandering and less mindless reading following meditation training. Intensive meditation training may promote reductions in mind wandering among practitioners when required to maintain attention during a complex cognitive task.

  • Attention
  • Meditation
  • Mind wandering
  • Reading
Citation (ISO format)
ZANESCO, Anthony P. et al. Meditation training influences mind wandering and mindless reading. In: Psychology of consciousness, 2016, vol. 3, n° 1, p. 12–33. doi: 10.1037/cns0000082
Main files (1)
Article (Accepted version)
ISSN of the journal2326-5523

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