Breath Counting as a Measure of Sustained Attention in Mindfulness Meditation and its Effect on Mood
mindfulness, breath counting tasks, BCT
A great deal of research is currently being carried out on mindfulness meditation, but most of this research suffers from obvious problems and shortcomings. Particularly lacking are objective, observable measures of mindfulness performance that would make it possible to track long-term improvement while at the same time assuring experimental control during individual sessions. One promising method is the so-called breath counting task (BCT) devised by Levinson et al. (2014), which pairs a button-pressing response with each breath during a meditation-like cognitive task. This study involves two experiments investigating the effects of individual-difference variables such as depression, anxiety, personality (Big 5), and working memory capacity on BCT performance, mind wandering, and changes in positive and negative mood. We found that BCT performance correlated with self-reported mind wandering, and tended to decline over the course of the 15-minute training session. Mood, particularly negative mood, decreased in intensity following the BCT, and this effect appeared stronger for participants higher in depression and anxiety. Overall, these results provide further evidence of the BCT’s potential usefulness in investigating the cognitive processes that underlie mindfulness meditation.
Clapper, John; Ware, Stephen; Martinez, Fitria Jong; Benitez, Kevin; and Koshino, Hideya, "Breath Counting as a Measure of Sustained Attention in Mindfulness Meditation and its Effect on Mood" (2021). Psychology Faculty Publications. 15.
Experiment1_questionnaire data.xlsx (12 kB)
Experiment 2 breath counting data.xlsx (1007 kB)
Experiment2_questionnaire data.xlsx (20 kB)
The files stored here represent data gathered by the study described above.