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'Mindfulness' Can Cause False Memories

'Mindfulness' Can Cause False Memories
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By    |   Thursday, 10 September 2015 01:12 PM


Numerous studies have found that mindfulness meditation may bring many benefits to your physical and mental health, including less stress, but a new study found it may also stimulate false memories.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that volunteers who participated in a 15-minute session of mindfulness meditation had worse scores on memory tests, and "remembered" seeing words on a list that weren't there.

"Our results highlight an unintended consequence of mindfulness meditation: memories may be less accurate," says first author Brent M. Wilson.

"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.

Wilson and his colleagues carried out three experiments to determine whether mindfulness might confuse memory.

In the first two experiments, participants underwent a 15-minute guided exercise. One group — the mindfulness group — focused on their breathing. The control group were told to think about whatever came to mind.

After the guided exercise in the first experiment, 153 participants studied a list of 15 words related to the concept of trash (garbage, waste, sewage, etc.), but the list did not include the word "trash."

They were then asked to recall as many of the words on the list as they could remember.

The results showed that 39 percent of the mindfulness remembered seeing the word "trash" on the list, compared to only 20 percent of the control group.

In the second experiment 140 volunteers engaged in a baseline recall test before participating in the guided exercise, and were still were more likely to falsely remember the significant word than those who let their minds wander.

In the third experiment, 215 participants had to decide whether they had actually seen a word presented earlier, or if it was simply related to earlier words they had seen.

Both participants in the mindfulness group and those in the control group both scored well in recognizing the words they had actually seen, but people in the mindfulness group were much more likely to falsely identify related words.

Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, and Arianna Huffington have publicly hailed the merits of being mindful.

Together, the three experiments suggest that mindfulness might hinder the cognitive processes that help to identify the source of a memory.

After mindfulness training, memories of imagined experiences become more like memories of actual experiences, and people have more difficulty deciding if experiences were real or only imagined, said the researchers.

"As a result, the same aspects of mindfulness that create countless benefits can also have the unintended negative consequence of increasing false-memory susceptibility," wrote Wilson and his colleagues.

The study was reported in the journal Psychological Science.

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Numerous studies have found that mindfulness meditation may bring many benefits to your physical and mental health, including less stress, but a new study found it may also stimulate false memories. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that...
mindfulness, false, memories, breathing
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2015-12-10
Thursday, 10 September 2015 01:12 PM
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