Welcome to my blog---an eyes-open, no-holds-barred exploration of Western and Eastern spirituality, mindfulness, philosophy and literature. A member of the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, I lectured at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry to mental health workers for 14 years. I also work as a lawyer and minister. My interests include the psychology of religion, transformative ritual, mythology, addiction recovery and the teachings of J. Krishnamurti and Vernon Howard.
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
NEW STUDY SUGGESTS MINDFULNESS IMPROVES DECISION-MAKING
decisions, and more decisions. Such is life.
who has spent much of his working life in the practice and teaching of the law
pertaining to the making of decisions by administrative decision-makers and
others, not to mention making more than a few such decisions of my own, I read
with great interest the results of a recent study suggesting that mindfulness improves the
quality of decision-making.
have trouble cutting their losses. This behaviour, often described as ‘throwing
good money after bad,’ is driven by what behavioural scientists call the
have trouble admitting they were wrong when their initial decisions lead to
undesirable outcomes,’ says lead researcher Andrew Hafenbrack (pictured left). ‘They
don't want to feel wasteful or that their initial investment was a loss.
Ironically, this kind of thinking often causes people to waste or lose more
resources in an attempt to regain their initial investment or try to “break
series of studies, PhD candidate Hafenbrack and his co-authors found that
mindfulness meditation may help to counteract this deep-rooted bias. ‘We found
that a brief period of mindfulness meditation can encourage people to make more
rational decisions by considering the information available in the present
moment, while ignoring some of the other concerns that typically exacerbate the
“sunk cost bias,”’ explains Hafenbrack.
team conducted 4 studies to test the idea that mindfulness meditation could
improve decision-making by increasing resistance to the sunk-cost bias.
In one online
study, American participants reported about how much they typically focus on
the present moment, and also read 10 sunk-cost scenarios---such as whether to
attend a music festival that had been paid for when illness and bad weather
made enjoyment unlikely---and then reported how much they would let go of sunk
costs in each of them. The results revealed that the more people typically
focused on the present moment, the more they reported that they would ignore
whether mindfulness caused an increased resistance to the sunk-cost bias, the
researchers conducted an additional three experiments. In each, participants
listened to a 15-minute recording made by a professional mindfulness coach. For
one group of participants, the recording led them through a focused-breathing
meditation that repeatedly instructed them to focus on the sensations of
breathing. The other group of participants listened to a recording that asked
them to think of whatever comes to mind, a practice that is not a form of
meditation. Participants then responded to sunk-cost scenario questions. In the
final study, participants also answered questions about the time period on
which they focused -- that is present, past, or future -- and the emotions they
show that mindfulness meditation increased resistance to the sunk-cost bias in
each of the three experiments.
debiasing effect of mindfulness meditation in sunk-cost situations was due to a
two-step process,’ said co-author Zoe Kinias. ‘First, meditation reduced how
much people focused on the past and future, and this psychological shift led to
less negative emotion. The reduced negative emotion then facilitated their
ability to let go of sunk costs.’
‘This tool is
very practical,’ said co-author Sigal Barsade. ‘Our findings hold great promise
for research on how mindfulness can influence emotions and behaviour, and how
employees can use it to feel and perform better.’