Extensive research suggests that short-term meditation interventions may hold therapeutic promise for a wide range of psychosocial outcomes. In response to calls to subject these interventions to more methodologically rigorous tests, a randomized controlled trial tested the effectiveness of a mindfulness meditation intervention and a compassion meditation intervention against an active control in a demographically diverse sample of medically and psychiatrically healthy adults.
Two hundred and four participants completed a battery of questionnaires to assess psychological experience, participated in a laboratory stress test to measure their biological stress reactivity, and wore the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) to assess daily behaviors before and after an eight-week intervention (mindfulness meditation intervention, compassion meditation intervention, or health education discussion group).
Neither meditation intervention reliably impacted participants’ subjective psychological experience, biological stress reactivity, or objectively assessed daily behaviors. Furthermore, post hoc moderation analyses found that neither baseline distress nor intervention engagement significantly moderated effects.
Results from this trial—which was methodologically rigorous and powered to detect all but small effects—were essentially null. These results are an important data point for the body of research about meditation interventions. Implications of these non-significant effects are discussed in the context of prior studies, and future directions for contemplative intervention research are recommended.
Clinical Trial Registry
Registry Number: NCT01643369.