Students with learning disabilities (LD; defined by compromised academic performance) often have higher levels of anxiety, school-related stress, and less optimal social skills compared with their typically developing peers. Previous health research indicates that meditation and relaxation training may be effective in reducing anxiety and promoting social skills. This pilot study used a pre—post no-control design to examine feasibility of, attitudes toward, and outcomes of a 5-week mindfulness meditation intervention administered to 34 adolescents diagnosed with LD. Postintervention survey responses overwhelmingly expressed positive attitudes toward the program. All outcome measures showed significant improvement, with participants who completed the program demonstrating decreased state and trait anxiety, enhanced social skills, and improved academic performance. Although not directly assessed, the outcomes are consistent with a cognitive-interference model of learning disability and suggest that mindfulness meditation decreases anxiety and detrimental self-focus of attention, which, in turn, promotes social skills and academic outcomes.
Drawing from theories regarding the role of awareness in behavioral self-regulation, this research was designed to examine the role of mindfulness as a moderator between implicit motivation and the motivation for day-to-day behavior. We hypothesized that dispositional mindfulness (Brown and Ryan, J Pers Soc Psychol, 84, 822–848, 2003) would act to modify the expression of implicit autonomy orientation in daily behavioral motivation. Using the Implicit Association Test (Greenwald et al. J Pers Soc Psychol, 74, 1464–1480, 1998), Study 1 provided evidence for the reliability and validity of a new measure of implicit autonomy orientation. Using an experience-sampling strategy, Study 2 showed the hypothesized moderating effect, such that implicit autonomy orientation predicted day-to-day motivation only for those lower in dispositional mindfulness. Those higher in mindfulness showed more autonomously motivated behavior regardless of implicit orientation toward autonomy or heteronomy. It also showed that this moderating effect of awareness was specific to mindfulness and was primarily manifest in spontaneous behavior. Discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for dual process theory and research.
Mindfulness training has had salutary effects with adult populations and it is seen as a potentially helpful to children’s development. How to implement mindfulness practices with young children is not yet clear; some meditation practices, like sitting still for long periods with internally-self-regulated focused attention, seem developmentally inappropriate. Montessori schooling is a 100-year-old system that naturally incorporates practices that align with mindfulness and are suited to very young children. Here I describe how several aspects of Montessori education, including privileging concentrated attention, attending to sensory experience, and engaging in practical work, parallel mindfulness practices. These aspects might be responsible for some of the socio-emotional and executive function benefits that have been associated with Montessori education, and they could be adapted to conventional classroom methods.
<p>Mindfulness refers to a set of practices as well as the psychological state and trait produced by such practices. The state, trait, and practice of mindfulness may be broadly characterized by a present-oriented, nonjudgmental awareness of cognitions, emotions, sensations, and perceptions without fixation on thoughts of past or future. Research on mindfulness has proliferated over the past decade. Given the explosion of scientific interest in this topic, mindfulness-based therapies are attracting the attention of clinical social workers, who seek to implement these interventions in numerous practice settings. Concomitantly, research on mindfulness is now falling within the scope and purview of social work scholars. In response to the growing interest in mindfulness within academic social work, the present article outlines six conceptual and methodological recommendations for the conduct of future empirical studies on mindfulness. These recommendations have practical importance for advancing mindfulness research within and beyond social work.</p>
Children with ADHD are often non-compliant with parental instructions. Various methods have been used to reduce problem behaviors in these children, with medication and manipulation of behavioral contingencies being the most prevalent. An objection often raised by parents is that these management strategies require them to impose external control on the children which not only results in the children not learning self-control strategies, but also does not enhance positive interactions between them and their parents. Studies have shown that providing mindfulness training to parents, without a focus on reducing problem behaviors, can enhance positive interactions with their children and increase their satisfaction with parenting. We were interested to see what effects giving mindfulness training to two mothers, and subsequently to their children, would have on compliance by the children. Using a multiple baseline across mothers and children design, we found that giving a mother mindfulness training enhanced compliance by her child. When the children were subsequently given similar training, compliance increased even more markedly, and was maintained during follow-up. The mothers reported associated increases in satisfaction with the interactions with their children and happiness with parenting. We suspect that the mindfulness training produces personal transformations, both in parents and children, rather than teaching strategies for changing behavior.
Mindfulness is defined as paying attention in the present moment. We investigate the hypothesis that mindfulness training may alter or enhance specific aspects of attention. We examined three functionally and neuroanatomically distinct but overlapping attentional subsystems: alerting, orienting, and conflict monitoring. Functioning of each subsystem was indexed by performance on the Attention Network Test (ANT; Fan, McCandliss, Sommer, Raz, & Posner, 2002). Two types of mindfulness training (MT) programs were examined, and behavioral testing was conducted on participants before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) training. One training group consisted of individuals naive to mindfulness techniques who participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course that emphasized the development of concentrative meditation skills. The other training group consisted of individuals experienced in concentrative meditation techniques who participated in a 1-month intensive mindfulness retreat. Performance of these groups was compared with that of control participants who were meditation naive and received no MT. At Time 1, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated improved conflict monitoring performance relative to those in the MBSR and control groups. At Time 2, the participants in the MBSR course demonstrated significantly improved orienting in comparison with the control and retreat participants. In contrast, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated altered performance on the alerting component, with improvements in exogenous stimulus detection in comparison with the control and MBSR participants. The groups did not differ in conflict monitoring performance at Time 2. These results suggest that mindfulness training may improve attention-related behavioral responses by enhancing functioning of specific subcomponents of attention. Whereas participation in the MBSR course improved the ability to endogenously orient attention, retreat participation appeared to allow for the development and emergence of receptive attentional skills, which improved exogenous alerting-related process.
Research shows that after training in the philosophy and practice of mindfulness, parents can mindfully attend to the challenging behaviors of their children with autism. Parents also report an increased satisfaction with their parenting skills and social interactions with their children. These findings were replicated and extended with 4 parents of children who had developmental disabilities, exhibited aggressive behavior, and had limited social skills. After mindfulness training, the parents were able to decrease aggressive behavior and increase their children's social skills. They also reported a greater practice of mindfulness, increased satisfaction with their parenting, more social interactions with their children, and lower parenting stress. Furthermore, the children showed increased positive and decreased negative social interactions with their siblings. We speculate that mindfulness produces transformational change in the parents that is reflected in enhanced positive behavioral transactions with their children.
This paper introduces a model of “mindful parenting” as a framework whereby parents intentionally bring moment-to-moment awareness to the parent–child relationship. This is done by developing the qualities of listening with full attention when interacting with their children, cultivating emotional awareness and self-regulation in parenting, and bringing compassion and nonjudgmental acceptance to their parenting interactions. First, we briefly outline the theoretical and empirical literature on mindfulness and mindfulness-based interventions. Next, we present an operational definition of mindful parenting as an extension of mindfulness to the social context of parent–child relationships. We discuss the implications of mindful parenting for the quality of parent–child relationships, particularly across the transition to adolescence, and we review the literature on the application of mindfulness in parenting interventions. We close with a synopsis of our own efforts to integrate mindfulness-based intervention techniques and mindful parenting into a well-established, evidence-based family prevention program and our recommendations for future research on mindful parenting interventions.
<p>In this article, we attempt to distinguish between the properties of moderator and mediator variables at a number of levels. First, we seek to make theorists and researchers aware of the importance of not using the terms moderator and mediator interchangeably by carefully elaborating, both conceptually and strategically, the many ways in which moderators and mediators differ. We then go beyond this largely pedagogical function and delineate the conceptual and strategic implications of making use of such distinctions with regard to a wide range of phenomena, including control and stress, attitudes, and personality traits. We also provide a specific compendium of analytic procedures appropriate for making the most effective use of the moderator and mediator distinction, both separately and in terms of a broader causal system that includes both moderators and mediators.</p>
In light of a growing interest in contemplative practices such as meditation, the emerging field of contemplative science has been challenged to describe and objectively measure how these practices affect health and well-being. While “mindfulness” itself has been proposed as a measurable outcome of contemplative practices, this concept encompasses multiple components, some of which, as we review here, may be better characterized as equanimity. Equanimity can be defined as an even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral). In this article, we propose that equanimity be used as an outcome measure in contemplative research. We first define and discuss the inter-relationship between mindfulness and equanimity from the perspectives of both classical Buddhism and modern psychology and present existing meditation techniques for cultivating equanimity. We then review psychological, physiological, and neuroimaging methods that have been used to assess equanimity either directly or indirectly. In conclusion, we propose that equanimity captures potentially the most important psychological element in the improvement of well-being, and therefore should be a focus in future research studies.
<p>Recent studies have shown that the presence of a caring relational partner can attenuate neural responses to threat. Here we report reanalyzed data from Coan, Schaefer, and Davidson ( 2006 ), investigating the role of relational mutuality in the neural response to threat. Mutuality reflects the degree to which couple members show mutual interest in the sharing of internal feelings, thoughts, aspirations, and joys - a vital form of responsiveness in attachment relationships. We predicted that wives who were high (versus low) in perceived mutuality, and who attended the study session with their husbands, would show reduced neural threat reactivity in response to mild electric shocks. We also explored whether this effect would depend on physical contact (hand-holding). As predicted, we observed that higher mutuality scores corresponded with decreased neural threat responding in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and supplementary motor cortex. These effects were independent of hand-holding condition. These findings suggest that higher perceived mutuality corresponds with decreased self-regulatory effort and attenuated preparatory motor activity in response to threat cues, even in the absence of direct physical contact with social resources.</p>
<p>Empathy—the ability to share the feelings of others—is fundamental to our emotional and social lives. Previous human imaging studies focusing on empathy for others' pain have consistently shown activations in regions also involved in the direct pain experience, particularly anterior insula and anterior and midcingulate cortex. These findings suggest that empathy is, in part, based on shared representations for firsthand and vicarious experiences of affective states. Empathic responses are not static but can be modulated by person characteristics, such as degree of alexithymia. It has also been shown that contextual appraisal, including perceived fairness or group membership of others, may modulate empathic neuronal activations. Empathy often involves coactivations in further networks associated with social cognition, depending on the specific situation and information available in the environment. Empathy-related insular and cingulate activity may reflect domain-general computations representing and predicting feeling states in self and others, likely guiding adaptive homeostatic responses and goal-directed behavior in dynamic social contexts.</p>
<p>Social neuro-science has recently started to investigate the neuronal mechanisms underlying our ability to understand the mental and emotional states of others. In this review, imaging research conducted on theory of mind (ToM or mentalizing) and empathy is selectively reviewed. It is proposed that even though these abilities are often used as synonyms in the literature these capacities represent different abilities that rely on different neuronal circuitry. ToM refers to our ability to understand mental states such as intentions, goals and beliefs, and relies on structures of the temporal lobe and the pre-frontal cortex. In contrast, empathy refers to our ability to share the feelings (emotions and sensations) of others and relies on sensorimotor cortices as well as limbic and para-limbic structures. It is further argued that the concept of empathy as used in lay terms refers to a multi-level construct extending from simple forms of emotion contagion to complex forms of cognitive perspective taking. Future research should investigate the relative contribution of empathizing and mentalizing abilities in the understanding of other people's states. Finally, it is suggested that the abilities to understand other people's thoughts and to share their affects display different ontogenetic trajectories reflecting the different developmental paths of their underlying neural structures. In particular, empathy develops much earlier than mentalizing abilities, because the former relys on limbic structures which develop early in ontogeny, whereas the latter rely on lateral temporal lobe and pre-frontal structures which are among the last to fully mature.</p>
<p>Ironically, in spite of the label "affective disorders", research on affective disorders has little to say about just what is disordered about emotion in these illnesses. One major purpose of this Special Issue is to begin to raise this question as a legitimate domain of inquiry in studies of emotion and psychopathology. Historically, the literature on emotion in normal subjects has proceeded almost entirely independently of studies of emotion-related psychopathology. And, studies on psychopathology make virtually no reference to basic research on emotion in normals. Major advances have occurred in our understanding of the neural substrates of these affective processes. Their application to the study of disordered emotion in affective and anxiety disorders is comparatively recent. A goal of this Special Issue is to foster increased integration between research on the neural mechanisms underlying normal emotion and disordered emotion in depression and anxiety-related illnesses. It features exemplars of the best research at many levels, from animal studies of the detailed circuitry subserving fear and anxiety, to human studies of cognitive abnormalities in subjects with affective and anxiety disorders. It also highlights a myriad array of methods for making inferences about affective processes, ranging from the biological to the behavioral, and from the molecular to the molar. A central concept that figures prominently in this collection of articles is the importance of individual differences in different components of affective processes. The study of the brain circuitry that underlies such differences in affective style offers great promise in providing a biologically plausible way of parsing the affect domain and developing a theoretically compelling taxonomy of mechanisms that give rise to vulnerability to affective and anxiety disorders.</p>
In this article, the authors elaborate on 3 ideas advanced in P. Rozin and A. B. Cohen's (2003) innovative study of facial expression. Taking a cue from their discovery of new expressive behaviors (e.g., the narrowed eyebrows), the authors review recent studies showing that emotions are conveyed in more channels than usually studied, including posture, gaze patterns, voice, and touch. Building on their claim that confusion has a distinct display, the authors review evidence showing distinct displays for 3 self-conscious emotions (embarrassment, shame, and pride), 5 positive emotions (amusement, desire, happiness, love, interest), and sympathy and compassion. Finally, the authors offer a functional definition of emotion to integrate these findings on "new" displays and emotions.
Although meditation is increasingly accepted as having personal benefits, less is known about the broader impact of meditation on social and intergroup relations. We tested the effect of lovingkindness meditation training on improving implicit attitudes toward members of 2 stigmatized social outgroups: Blacks and homeless people. Healthy non-Black, nonhomeless adults ( N = 101) were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 conditions: 6-week lovingkindness practice, 6-week lovingkindness discussion (a closely matched active control), or waitlist control. Decreases in implicit bias against stigmatized outgroups (as measured by Implicit Association Test) were observed only in the lovingkindness practice condition. Reduced psychological stress mediated the effect of lovingkindness practice on implicit bias against homeless people, but it did not mediate the reduced bias against Black people. These results suggest that lovingkindness meditation can improve automatically activated, implicit attitudes toward stigmatized social groups and that this effect occurs through distinctive mechanisms for different stigmatized social groups.
The nature of the affective deficit that characterizes social anhedonia is not well understood. Emotionally evocative visual stimuli were presented to undergraduates identified as anhedonic or normal, based on their scores on the revised Social Anhedonia Scale. The affective stimuli were chosen to elicit positive and negative emotion; a subset of slides were specifically chosen to include social-interpersonal content. In the acoustic startle paradigm, participants were administered startle probes (50-ms 95 dB white noise bursts) while viewing images from the International Affective Picture System. Socially anhedonic individuals did not differ from normally hedonic individuals in terms of their physiological response to the stimuli, regardless of the nature of the content of the stimuli. However, on the self-report measures of trait affectivity, the socially anhedonic individuals reported significantly lower levels of positive affect and higher levels of negative affect. These findings suggest that the affective deficits reported by socially anhedonic individuals are not global in nature.
Oxytocin, a peptide that functions as both a hormone and neurotransmitter, has broad influences on social and emotional processing throughout the body and the brain. In this study, we tested how a polymorphism (rs53576) of the oxytocin receptor relates to two key social processes related to oxytocin: empathy and stress reactivity. Compared with individuals homozygous for the G allele of rs53576 (GG), individuals with one or two copies of the A allele (AG/AA) exhibited lower behavioral and dispositional empathy, as measured by the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” Test and an other-oriented empathy scale. Furthermore, AA/AG individuals displayed higher physiological and dispositional stress reactivity than GG individuals, as determined by heart rate response during a startle anticipation task and an affective reactivity scale. Our results provide evidence of how a naturally occurring genetic variation of the oxytocin receptor relates to both empathy and stress profiles.
Parenting preschoolers can be a challenging endeavor. Yet anecdotal observations indicate that parents who are more mindful may have greater ease in contending with the emotional demands of parenting than parents who are less mindful. Therefore, we hypothesized that parenting effort, defined as the energy involved in deciding on the most effective way to respond to a preschooler, would be negatively associated with mothers’ mindfulness. In this study, a new parenting effort scale and an established mindfulness scale were distributed to 50 mothers of preschoolers. Using exploratory factor analysis, the factor structure of the new parenting effort scale was examined and the scale was refined. Bivariate correlations were then conducted on this new Parenting Effort—Preschool scale and the established mindfulness scale. Results confirmed the hypothesis that a negative correlation exists between these two variables. Implications are that mindfulness practices may have the potential to alleviate some of the challenges of parenting preschoolers.
The purpose of this study was to examine pathways in a model which proposed associations among parent mindfulness, parent depressive symptoms, two types of parenting, and child problem behavior. Participants' data were from the baseline assessment of a NIMH-sponsored family-group cognitive-behavioral intervention program for the prevention of child and adolescent depression (Compas et al., 2009). Participants consisted of 145 mothers and 17 fathers (mean age = 41.89 yrs, SD = 7.73) with a history of depression and 211 children (106 males) (mean age = 11.49 yrs, SD = 2.00). Analyses showed that (a) positive parenting appears to play a significant role in helping explain how parent depressive symptoms relate to child externalizing problems and (b) mindfulness is related to child internalizing and externalizing problems; however, the intervening constructs examined did not appear to help explain the mindfulness-child problem behavior associations. Suggestions for future research on parent mindfulness and child problem outcome are described.
This review provides an overview of the field of social neuroscience from a European perspective and focuses mainly on outlining research topics which originated in European laboratories. After a brief historical synopsis of the emergence of this young field, the most relevant findings related to the investigation of the neural networks underlying our capacity to understand the minds of others are summarized. More specifically, three routes of social cognition are distinguished: (1) our capacity to mentalize, or to infer intentions and beliefs of others, (2) our capacity to mimic and understand other's motor actions, and (3) our capacity to empathize, or to share and understand the feelings of others. More recent studies focusing on social emotions such as love, compassion, revenge or our sense of fairness will be discussed linking the field of social neuroscience to the even younger field of neuroeconomics, with the focus on the study of human social interactions using game theoretical paradigms. Finally, the use of a multi-method and multi-disciplinary research approach combining genetic, pharmacological, computational and developmental aspects is advocated and future directions for the study of interactive minds are discussed.
Employing data from a mailed survey of a sample of ecologically and spiritually aware respondents (N = 829), the study tests the hypothesized relationship between ecologically sustainable behavior (ESB) and subjective well-being (SWB). The proposed link between ESB and SWB is the spiritual practice of mindfulness meditation (MM). In multiple regression equations ESB and MM independently explain statistically significant amounts of variance in SWB, indicating, for at least the study's sample, that there can be a relationship between personal and planetary well-being. The inter-relationships among SWB, ESB and MM suggest that for specific segments of the general population (e.g., the spiritually inclined) there may not necessarily be an insurmountable conflict between an environmentally responsible lifestyle and personal quality of life. The research reported here also points to the potential for meditative/mindful experiences to play a prominent role in the explanation of variance in SWB, a direction in QoL studies recently highlighted by several researchers (Layard 2005, pp. 189–192; Nettle 2005, pp. 153–160; Haidt 2006).
The aim of this article is to investigate how a contemplative orientation to teaching may facilitate wholeness for teachers and students through a portrait of Diana, a kindergarten teacher working in a contemplative elementary school. The portrait, one of three portraits from a larger study, illustrates three central features of contemplative teaching: compassion, integrity, and mindful awareness. These three central features develop internally within individual teachers and are animated and influenced externally through their role as teachers. The context of their teaching, relationships with students, parents, and colleagues, and pedagogical choices, in turn influence the three central features. The emphasis on wholeness, unity, and integration of a contemplative orientation to teaching moves us toward a view of teachers and students as beings with not only minds and heads but also hearts and bodies. Contemplative teaching offers educational communities a path toward transformational, holistic, and integrative learning and teaching.