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Forty non-meditators were randomly assigned to 4 experimental cells devised to control for order and expectation effects. The subjects (all female) were continuously monitored on 7 physiological measures during both meditation and rest. Each subject was her own control in an ‘abab’ experimental paradigm comparing meditation to rest. The subjects, meditating for the first time, showed marginally lower psychophysiological arousal during the meditation than rest condition for systolic blood pressure, heart rate, skin conductance level and digital skin temperature. Delibrately fostering positive expectations of meditation was associated with lower physiological arousal in terms of diastolic and systolic blood pressure, heart rate and skin conductance level.
Meditation is increasingly being practiced as a therapeutic technique. The effects of practice on psychometrically assessed anxiety levels have been extensively researched. Prospective meditators tend to report above average levels of anxiety. In general, high anxiety levels predict a subsequent low frequency of practice. However, the evidence suggests that those who practice regularly tend to show significant decreases in anxiety. Meditation does not appear to be more effective than comparative interventions in reducing anxiety. There is evidence to suggest that hypnotizability and expectancy may both play a role in reported anxiety decrements. Certain individuals, with a capacity to engage in autonomous self-absorbed relaxation, may benefit most from meditation.