, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 352–365 | Cite as

Mindfulness and the Evaluative Organization of Self-Knowledge

  • Sebastian DummelEmail author
  • Jutta Stahl


Individuals differ in the degree to which they organize self-knowledge according to its evaluative meaning. Evaluative self-organization can range from complete compartmentalization of positive and negative self-beliefs to complete integration of these self-beliefs. While much research has focused on how evaluative self-organization is related to well-being, relatively little is known about how it is related to individual difference variables. Compartmentalization has been suggested to reflect defensive avoidance of negative self-beliefs. Based on findings showing that mindfulness reduces defensiveness, the current research examined whether greater mindfulness is related to lower levels of compartmentalization. Participants of two studies (Noverall = 164; 129 female) completed measures of trait mindfulness and a self-description task assessing evaluative self-organization. To test causality, participants of study 2 further completed either a mindfulness exercise or a control exercise before completing the self-description task. Results of both studies showed that trait mindfulness was negatively associated with the tendency to compartmentalize self-knowledge. Both studies also found that trait mindfulness was inversely associated with self-concept negativity; specifically, greater mindfulness was associated with fewer negative self-beliefs, but it was unrelated to the number of positive self-beliefs. Going beyond trait mindfulness, study 2 further found that participants who completed the mindfulness exercise demonstrated less compartmentalization than participants who completed the control exercise. Mindfulness meditation had no effect on the relative amount of participants’ negative self-beliefs. Results are consistent with the assumption that compartmentalization may reflect a form of defensive avoidance and that mindfulness has the potential to reduce compartmentalization.


Compartmentalization Defensiveness Evaluative organization Mindfulness Meditation 



The authors would like to thank Max Jacobsen, Yvonne Prouse, Isabel Thomas, and Melanie Wolf for their help in collecting the data and in preparing the materials. The authors would also like to thank Aline Vater for providing us with the German version of the self-description task.

Author Contributions

S.D. designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the paper. JS collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.


No specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors was received.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in the present study with human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the IRB of the University of Heidelberg, the IRB of the University of Cologne, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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