, Volume 10, Issue 10, pp 2133–2142 | Cite as

Becoming Mindful of Measurement: an Experimental-Experiential Analogue Study of State Mindfulness Measures

  • Ethan G. LesterEmail author
  • Amy R. Murrell



Preliminary research and anecdotal accounts suggest individuals often hold preconceived notions, misconceptions, and misinformation about the theory and practice of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. Still, no experimental research examines how these ideas about mindfulness and mindfulness meditation influence responses to state mindfulness instruments designed to measure related outcomes.


The current study implemented an experimental-experiential design to examine how the presentation of mindfulness via mindfulness theory-consistent(TC) and theory-inconsistent(TI) treatment rationales and subsequent mindfulness meditation practices (consistent with respective rationales) affected participants’ (n = 114) state mindfulness scores and perceptions of mindfulness. Self-reported trait mindfulness (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, MAAS), state mindfulness (Toronto Mindfulness Scale, TMS; State Mindfulness Scale, SMS), and qualitative measurements (participant open entry) were utilized.


Despite vastly different presentations of mindfulness being utilized by participants (successful experimental manipulation; significant between-group differences in number of qualitative mindfulness misconceptions coded [TI > TC]), there were no significant differences between the two experimental groups on state mindfulness measures directly following TC and TI rationales and practices. No significant differences were observed between the TC and TI conditions for usability or perceived accuracy of the rationales and practices, and self-reported previous mindfulness experience did not predict one’s likelihood of providing qualitative misconceptions.


When taught TI mindfulness meditation material, participants were more likely to respond with TI information even though state mindfulness measures after practice did not differ from the TC condition. Results and limitations are discussed, along with suggestions for future research directions and practice implications.


Mindfulness Meditation Misconceptions State mindfulness 



Special thanks to the UNT Contextual Psychology Group for help with this project.

Author Contributions

EL: designed and executed the study, conducted data analyses, and wrote the manuscript. AM: supervised the project and study design, contributed to the data analytic strategy, and contributed substantially to the editing and finalization of this manuscript. Both authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This study was approved by the University of North Texas Institutional Review Board.

Informed Consent

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


  1. Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: a conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 125–143. Scholar
  2. Baer, R. A. (2011). Measuring mindfulness. Contemporary Buddhism, 12(1), 241–261. Scholar
  3. Baer, R. A., Walsh, E., & Lykins, E. L. (2009). Assessment of mindfulness. In F. Didonna (Ed.), Clinical handbook of mindfulness (pp. 153–168). New York: Springer. Scholar
  4. Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13(1), 27–45.
  5. Bandura, A., Adams, N. E., & Beyer, J. (1977). Cognitive processes mediating behavioral change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35(3), 125–139. Scholar
  6. Barkley, R. A. (1997). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, self-regulation, and time: toward a more comprehensive theory. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 18(4), 271–279. Scholar
  7. Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., & ... Devins, G. (2004). Mindfulness: a proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(3), 230–241.
  8. Black, D. S., Semple, R. J., Pokhrel, P., & Grenard, J. L. (2011). Component processes of executive function—mindfulness, self-control, and working memory—and their relationships with mental and behavioral health. Mindfulness, 2(3), 179–185. Scholar
  9. Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822–848. Scholar
  10. Cahn, B., & Polich, J. (2006). Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies. Psychological Bulletin, 132(2), 180–211. Scholar
  11. David, D. (2014a). Some concerns about the psychological implications of mindfulness: a critical analysis. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 32(4), 313–324. Scholar
  12. David, D. (2014b). And yet it moves! A reply to “Rectifying misconception: a comprehensive response to Gardner, Moore, and Marks comments on ‘Some concerns about the psychological implications of mindfulness: a critical analysis’”. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 32(4), 345–351. Scholar
  13. Davidson, R. J., & Kaszniak, A. W. (2015). Conceptual and methodological issues in research on mindfulness and meditation. American Psychologist, 70(7), 581. Scholar
  14. Delmonte, M. M. (1981). Expectation and meditation. Psychological Reports, 49(3), 699–709. Scholar
  15. Dunkley, C., & Stanton, M. (2013). Teaching clients to use mindfulness skills: a practical guide. Abingdon: Routledge. Scholar
  16. Farb, N. A. (2012). Mind your expectations: exploring the roles of suggestion and intention in mindfulness training. The Journal of Mind-Body Regulation, 2(1), 27–42 Scholar
  17. Gardner, F. L., Moore, Z. E., & Marks, D. R. (2014). Rectifying misconceptions: a comprehensive response to ‘Some concerns about the psychological implications of mindfulness: a critical analysis’. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 32(4), 325–344. Scholar
  18. Grossman, P. (2008). On measuring mindfulness in psychosomatic and psychological research. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64(4), 405–408. Scholar
  19. Hitchcock, P. F., Martin, L. M., Fischer, L., Marando-Blanck, S., & Herbert, J. D. (2016). Popular conceptions of mindfulness: awareness and emotional control. Mindfulness, 7(4), 940–949. Scholar
  20. Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191(1), 36–43. Scholar
  21. Joyce, A. S., & Piper, W. E. (1998). Expectancy, the therapeutic alliance, and treatment outcome in short-term individual psychotherapy. The Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 7(3), 236.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1982). An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: theoretical considerations and preliminary results. General Hospital Psychiatry, 4(1), 33–47.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Delacorte.Google Scholar
  24. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hachette Books.Google Scholar
  25. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2014). Meditation is everywhere. Mindfulness, 5(4), 462–463.Google Scholar
  26. Kanter, J. W., Kohlenberg, R. J., & Loftus, E. F. (2002). Demand characteristics, treatment rationales, and cognitive therapy for depression. Prevention and Treatment, 5(1).
  27. Kanter, J. W., Kohlenberg, R. J., & Loftus, E. F. (2004). Experimental and psychotherapeutic demand characteristics and the cognitive therapy rationale: an analogue study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28(2), 229–239. Scholar
  28. Lassonde, K. A., Kendeou, P., & O’Brien, E. J. (2016). Refutation texts: overcoming psychology misconceptions that are resistant to change. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 2(1), 62–74. Scholar
  29. Lau, M. A., Bishop, S. R., Segal, Z. V., Buis, T., Anderson, N. D., Carlson, L., & ... Devins, G. (2006). The Toronto mindfulness scale: development and validation. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(12), 1445–1467. doi:
  30. Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., et al. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16(17), 1893. Scholar
  31. Lester, E. G., Murrell, A. R., & Dickson, D. E. (2018). A mixed methods approach to understanding conceptions of mindfulness meditation. OBM Integrative and Complementary Medicine, 3(4), 026. Scholar
  32. Leung, M., Chan, C. H., Yin, J., Lee, C., So, K., & Lee, T. C. (2013). Increased gray matter volume in the right angular and posterior parahippocampal gyri in loving-kindness meditators. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8(1), 34–39. Scholar
  33. Nigg, J. T., & Casey, B. J. (2005). An integrative theory of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder based on the cognitive and affective neurosciences. Development and Psychopathology, 17(3), 785–806. Scholar
  34. Orsillo, S. M., Danitz, S. B., & Roemer, L. (2016). Mindfulness- and acceptance-based cognitive and behavioral therapies. In C. M. Nezu, A. M. Nezu, C. M. Nezu, & A. M. Nezu (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of cognitive and behavioral therapies (pp. 172–199). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Pepping, C. A., Walters, B., Davis, P. J., & O’Donovan, A. (2016). Why do people practice mindfulness? An investigation into reasons for practicing mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness, 7(2), 542–547. Scholar
  36. Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: a critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903. Scholar
  37. Sauer, S., Lemke, J., Wittmann, M., Kohls, N., Mochty, U., & Walach, H. (2012). How long is now for mindfulness meditators? Personality and Individual Differences, 52(6), 750–754. Scholar
  38. Seidman, L. J. (2006). Neuropsychological functioning in people with ADHD across the lifespan. Clinical Psychology Review, 26(4), 466–485. Scholar
  39. Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373–386. Scholar
  40. Stahl, B., & Goldstein, E. (2010). A mindfulness-based stress reduction workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.Google Scholar
  41. Stanovich, K. E. (2013). How to think straight about psychology (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.Google Scholar
  42. Tanay, G., & Bernstein, A. (2013). State mindfulness scale (SMS): development and initial validation. Psychological Assessment, 25(4), 1286. Scholar
  43. Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z., & Williams, J. M. G. (1995). How does cognitive therapy prevent depressive relapse and why should attentional control (mindfulness) training help? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33(1), 25–39. Scholar
  44. Valentine, E. R., & Sweet, P. L. (1999). Meditation and attention: a comparison of the effects of concentrative and mindfulness meditation on sustained attention. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 2(1), 59–70. Scholar
  45. Van Leeuwen, S., Singer, W., & Melloni, L. (2012). Meditation increases the depth of information processing and improves the allocation of attention in space. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 133. Scholar
  46. Vestergaard-Poulsen, P., van Beek, M., Skewes, J., Bjarkam, C. R., Stubberup, M., Bertelsen, J., & Roepstorff, A. (2009). Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem. Neuroreport: For Rapid Communication of Neuroscience Research, 20(2), 170–174. Scholar
  47. Weger, U. W., Hooper, N., Meier, B. P., & Hopthrow, T. (2012). Mindful maths: reducing the impact of stereotype threat through a mindfulness exercise. Consciousness and Cognition, 21(1), 471–475. Scholar
  48. Wilens, T. E., Biederman, J., & Spencer, T. J. (2002). Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder across the lifespan. Annual Review of Medicine, 53, 113–131. Scholar
  49. Williams, A., Dixon, J., McCorkle, R., & Van Ness, P. H. (2011). Determinants of meditation practice inventory: Development, content validation, and initial psychometric testing. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 17(5), 16Google Scholar
  50. Zylowska, L., Ackerman, D. L., Yang, M. H., Futrell, J. L., Horton, N. L., Hale, T., Pataki, C., & ... Smalley, S. L. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training in adults and adolescents with ADHD: a feasibility study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11(6), 737–746.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of North TexasDentonUSA

Personalised recommendations