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28-07-2020 | ORIGINAL PAPER | Uitgave 10/2020

Mindfulness 10/2020

Mindfulness Meditation Weakens Attachment to Self: Evidence from a Self vs Other Binding Task

Mindfulness > Uitgave 10/2020
Salvatore G. Chiarella, Mukesh Makwana, Luca Simione, Mirjam Hartkamp, Lucia Calabrese, Antonino Raffone, Narayanan Srinivasan
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Mindfulness meditation is based on Buddhist teachings and meditation practices that promote a reduced identification with thoughts and mental states. Mindfulness meditation is also suggested to promote self-other integration, either by decreasing preference for self-related processing or by rebalancing self and other-related processing. However, it is not clear how meditation practice influences attachment to self and more specifically sense of agency. Hence, we investigated how mindfulness meditation (Vipassana or insight meditation) practice influences an implicit measure of sense of agency known as intentional binding effect with self- vs other-associated stimuli by comparing long-term meditators with non-meditators.


This study had two phases. The first phase consisted of a perceptual matching task using self-related and other-related shape-label pairings so that participants can learn the shape-label associations. In the second phase, participants performed an intentional binding task with the same self-associated and other-associated stimuli displayed as target outcome of self-generated action.


While meditators did show faster responses to self vs other shape-label processing similar to non-meditators, they did not show stronger binding (reduced temporal estimation between action and outcome shape) for self-associated compared with other-associated outcome.


The results indicate that even though meditators preferentially process self-related information, they are less attached to self-associated stimuli as indicated by an implicit measure of sense of agency. These results have implications for theories of action and agency based on contemplative traditions that emphasize less attachment to outcomes of our actions.

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