Brief Meditation Trainings Improve Performance in the Emotional
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Objectives To efficiently handle the continuous flow of information to which the attentional system is exposed, humans are
equipped with filters likethe attentional blink (i.e.,a failure to detect a second target when it is presented between 200 and 500 ms
after the first one). The aim of this study was to examine whether the practice of two standardized meditation programs (i.e.,
mindfulness and compassion) could modify the allocation of attentional resources towards emotional information.
Methods A sample of 90 participants (43 in the mindfulness group and 47 in the compassion group) performed a variant of the
emotional attentional blink task using negative, positive, and neutral faces, before and after the 8-week meditation programs.
Results Both programs significantly decreased the standard AB effect (F
minor differences between them. Furthermore, the AB reduction after the programs varied according to the different emotional
faces used (F
Conclusions Results suggest that standardized 8-week meditation programs may significantly change early stages of emotional
stimuli processing while promoting a more balanced distribution of attentional resources towards emotional information.
Keywords Mindfulness .Compassion .Attentional blink .Attention .Emotional processing
What would you think if someone told you that your atten-
tional system is functionally “blind”immediately after pro-
cessing a stimulus? We all know that our eyes automatically
blink several times per minute, but it is less known that the
attentional system also “blinks,”suffering spontaneous
“blackouts”when it shifts its focus from one stimulus to an-
other. This attentional blackout is known as the attentional
blink (AB; Raymond et al. 1992) effect, which has been re-
peatedly found in studies investigating the temporal limita-
tions of attention. The AB effect is an attentional deficit
consisting of a reduction in the processing accuracy for a
second target (T2), when it is presented between 200 and
500 ms after a first target (T1).
Despite the fact that attentional resources are limited, the
AB does not capture an immutable bottleneck in human infor-
mation processing and it can be reduced through a variety of
attention manipulations (Olivers and Nieuwenhuis 2005). One
of the most empirically supported methods to enhance atten-
tion is the practice of meditation (Chiesa et al. 2011). The
seminal study of Slagter et al. (2007) found that, after a 3-
month meditation retreat, meditators exhibited a significant
reduction in the AB deficit compared to a control group.
These results suggested that the intensive practice of medita-
tion improved participants’allocation of attentional resources
between the first and the second targets, thus reducing the
propensity to “get stuck”on the first target.
Theoretical and empirical models of meditation emphasize
the central role of attentional control as the entry door for the
rest of the acting mechanisms (Malinowski 2013;Tangetal.
2015). Studies using different methodologies seem to indicate
that mindfulness-based programs (MBPs) increase the effi-
ciency of attentional functions by improving the resource al-
location flexibility (Malinowski 2013; Moore et al. 2012).
MBPs have also been found to be an effective treatment for
mood disorders (Kuyken et al. 2016), and it could be possible
that the benefits of these programs are mediated, at least
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
(https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01374-x) contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
School of Psychology, Complutense University of Madrid,
28223 Madrid, Spain
Nirakara Lab, Madrid, Spain
Published online: 2 May 2020
Mindfulness (2020) 11:1613–1622