Mindfulness May Have Negative Impact on Memories

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the Psychiatry Advisor take:

While mindfulness has been praised for benefits to several psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, the mediation might have a downside: It may make memories less accurate.

Brent M. Wilson, a PhD candidate at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues wanted to find out whether mindfulness might lead to uncertainty regarding the source of a memory.

The researchers enrolled 153 participants in two experiments. They were divided into two groups: mindfulness and mind-wandering. In the first experiment, the mindfulness cohort was asked to focus on breathing without judgment, while the other cohort was told to think about whatever came to mind.

In the second experiment, the participants were then asked to study and then recall a list of words related to trash, though the list did not include the actual word.

While 39% of the mindfulness participants incorrectly recalled seeing the word “trash” on the list, only 20% of the mind-wandering participants did, the researchers reported in the journal Psychological Science.

“When memories of imagined and real experiences too closely resemble each other, people can have difficulty determining which is which, and this can lead to falsely remembering imagined experiences as actual experiences,” Wilson said in a statement.

Integrating Mindfulness Meditation Into a Clinical Practice
Participants who had done mindfulness meditation just prior to a memory recall task did worse than those who let their minds wander.

Mindfulness meditation is associated with all sorts of benefits to mental and physical well-being, but a new study suggests that it may also come with a particular downside for memory. The findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, show that participants who engaged in a 15-minute mindfulness meditation session were less able to differentiate items they actually encountered from items they only imagined.

Researchers wondered whether the very mechanism that seems to underlie the benefits of mindfulness — judgment-free thoughts and feelings — might also affect people's ability to determine the origin of a given memory. Some memories originate from an external source, such as an actual experience of eating an omelet for breakfast. But other memories originate from an internal source, such as imagining the experience of eating an omelet for breakfast.

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