Tag Archives: Daniel Gilbert

Evidence-Based Stress Management – Mindful Attention – Part 2 of 5

Workplace stress reduces employees’ ability to concentrate and pay attention to work, but mindfulness training can enhance these skills while reducing stress.

Matthew Killingsworth

Matthew Killingsworth

Inattentiveness and distraction are both frequent and unpleasant, according to Harvard’s Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert.
They surveyed more than 2,000 adults, who reported that 47 percent of the time, their focus was not on their current activities.
In addition, these volunteers reported being less happy when distracted.

Lee Ann Cardaciotto

Lee Ann Cardaciotto

Another way to measure distraction and attentiveness is The Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale, developed by La Salle University’s Lee Ann Cardaciotto and James Herbert, Evan Forman, Ethan Moitra, and Victoria Farrow of Drexel University.
This tool provides a baseline measure of potential need for stress management and mindfulness training, and can demonstrate impact of training.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Current approaches to stress management training are typically based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which trains participants to focus on breathing, which slows respiration and heart rate, and triggers the “relaxation response.”

Wendy Hasenkamp

Wendy Hasenkamp

Using these frameworks, Emory’s Wendy Hasenkamp, Christine Wilson-Mendenhall, Erica Duncan, and Lawrence Barsalou investigated the neurological activity during distraction and mind-wandering experiences using fMRI scans of 14 meditators.

Participants focused on breathing and pressed a button when they realized their minds were wandering, then returned focus to the breathing.
Scans pinpointed active brain regions before, during, or after the button press.

Erica Duncan

Erica Duncan

Hasenkamp and team proposed four intervals in a cognitive cycle, based on button-pressing patterns:

  • Mind wandering (default mode activity), controlled by the medial prefrontal cortex, leading to  self-focused thoughts
  • Awareness of mind wandering (attentional subnetworks)
  • Shifting of attention (executive subnetworks)
  • Sustained attention (executive subnetworks).
Lawrence Barsalou

Lawrence Barsalou

These experienced meditators disengaged attention and deactivated medial prefrontal cortex more quickly after identifying mind-wandering, suggesting that their mindfulness practice helped them voluntarily shift from perseverative, ruminating thoughts.
They demonstrated increased connectivity between default mode and attention brain regions, enabling less default mode activity while meditating.

Britta Hölzel

Britta Hölzel

Besides reducing stress, mindfulness meditation trains attention, improves working memory, fluid intelligence, introspection, and standardized test scores, according to Britta Hölzel team at Harvard and Justus Liebig Universität Giessen.
In addition, mindfulness meditation has shown beneficial results in comprehensive treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction.

Fadel Zeidan

Fadel Zeidan

Hölzel’s group conducted anatomical magnetic resonance (MR) images for 16 volunteers with no previous mindfulness meditation experience before and after they participated in the 8-week training program.
Gray matter concentration increased in the meditators’ left hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum, areas responsible for learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.

Further support for mindfulness meditation’s value in reducing perceived stress and anxiety comes from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Fadel Zeidan.
His study identified brain areas activated and deactivated during meditation and participants reported that anxiety decreased by 39 percent during practice.

Norman Farb

Norman Farb

Mindfulness meditation training modifies the way people experience themselves over time and in the present moment, according to University of Toronto’s Norman Farb and six collaborators.
The team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine monitoring of two self-reference processes:  Focus on enduring traits (’narrative’ focus) or momentary experience (’experiential’ focus).

They compared participants with no previous meditation experience, and volunteers who completed an 8-week mindfulness meditation training to increase attention on the present.

Herbert Benson

Herbert Benson

Brain scans of inexperienced and experienced meditators differed significantly in tasks that required these two forms of self-awareness: the self across time and in the present moment.
These two experiences are usually integrated but can be dissociated through mindfulness attention training.
Results suggest that mindfulness training enables people to focus on the present moment without the distraction of intrusive, ruminative thoughts which can increase stress.

Manoj Bhasin

Manoj Bhasin

Mindfulness-based stress management has significant long term effects by modifying gene expression.
Harvard’s Herbert Benson, who led research on “the relaxation response” almost four decades ago, along with colleagues including Harvard’s Manoj Bhasin and Abbott Northwestern Hospital Jeffery Dusek and four others, assert that meditation evokes “a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.”

Jeffrey Dusek

Jeffrey Dusek

Genes associated with inflammation and stress are less active and those involved in energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance are activated.

Bhasin, Dusek and team measured peripheral blood transcriptome in experienced and inexperienced meditators before and after they listened to a relaxation response-inducing tape or a health education message.

Both short-term and long-term practitioners showed significant temporal gene expression changes with a greater effect among the experienced meditators.

This and other research evidence supports the effectiveness of mindfulness attention training as a stress management practice.
Mindful attention training enables people to voluntarily control body processes like respiration and heart rate, which reduces perceived stress.
The practice can induce calm thoughts that reciprocally reduce the physical expressions of stress.

Jonathan Smallwood

Jonathan Smallwood

Like other stress management techniques, this practice requires willingness and commitment to take full advantage of benefits demonstrated in lab studies.

If efforts to cultivate mindfulness falter, mind-wandering or “self-generated thoughts” can be channeled away from self-referential worries to enable creativity problem-solving and planning.

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Max Planck Institute’s Jonathan Smallwood and Jessica Andrews-Hanna of University of Colorado argue that “a wandering mind helps project past and future selves.”

Thomas Suddendorf

Thomas Suddendorf

Similarly, University of Queensland’s Thomas Suddendorf and Michael Corballis of University of Auckland posit that this hindsight and foresight enables experience and memory integration into a sense of self through this “mental time travel.” 

Michael Corballis

Michael Corballis

University of California, Santa Barbara’s Benjamin Baird collaborated with Jonathan Smallwood and four colleagues to evaluate the impact of mind-wandering on a creativity task during a demanding task, rest, or an undemanding task.

Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird

They found that engaging in an undemanding task during an incubation period led to substantial performance improvements, suggesting the value of mind-wandering to develop creative solutions.

Although mindfulness training has been reliably associated with effective stress management, even moments of mind-wandering can be channeled to productive ends in creative problem-solving.

-*How applicable are mindfulness attention training practice for workplace stress?

Follow-share-like www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

RELATED POSTS

Motivation to Manage Stress

Mindful Attention (Part 2)

Social Support (Part 3)

Music (Part 4)

Nature

Sleep

Organizational Roles, Practices

Look for related posts on:

  • Vitamins and Probiotcs (Part 1)
  • Social Support (Part 3)
  • Music (Part 4)
  • Physical Exercise (Part 5)

Twitter:  @kathrynwelds
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
Google+:
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes:

©Kathryn Welds

Advertisements

How Well Do Today’s Career Choices Endure Over Time?

Donald Clifton

Donald Clifton

Career development and job search are founded on uncovering individual skills, competencies, strengths, capabilities, interests and likes.

This discovery can involve introspective “personal archaeology,” often enabled by standardized career and personality assessment tools.

However, social science research suggests that it is difficult to “know” preference – career and otherwise – in order to map this “supply” to the “demand” in available career roles.

Gilbert Ryle

Gilbert Ryle

More than 60 years ago, acclaimed Oxford University philosopher Gilbert Ryle foreshadowed the philosophical and cognitive problems entailed in “knowing one’s own mind.”

Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes

Ryle considered how people acquire attitudes, traits, and their dispositions to act in The Concept of Mind  , an erudite attack on Cartesian dualism of mind and body

Daryl Bem

Daryl Bem

Two decades later, Daryl Bem of Cornell University substituted laboratory research for Ryle’s philosophical reasoning, and demonstrated that people may not know what they like or their skills until they observe their behavior in studies of “self-perception theory.”

Bem found that people draw inferences about who they are and they “become what they do,” particularly when people are not certain of what they think or feel, and when they believe that they freely chose to behave as they did.

Bruce Hood

Bruce Hood

Bruce Hood of University of Bristol expanded the self-perception argument to posit that “the self” is an illusion, so it is difficult to “know” what the “self” likes, values, and prefers.

However, behaviors can be shaped and constrained by external social standards:  People learn to become themselves by interacting with others, according to Charles Horton Cooley, who coined the term “the looking glass self” more than a century ago.

Charles Horton Cooley

Charles Horton Cooley

Therefore, people may choose a career acceptable to parents or social observers who attribute “respect” and “prestige.”

Hood showed that the fluid process of constructing the self is a created narrative which is experienced as “a cohesive, integrated character.”
Since the “self” is constructed, it changes over time, and people significantly and consistently underestimate how much they will change in the future.

This finding has important implications for anyone seeking to distill values, strengths, and preference a job search “elevator speech,” “value proposition,” and “pitch.”

Introspection, therefore, offers limited career insight and guidance: People need to see how they respond, then infer attitudes and preferences for career and other life choices.
This argues for taking exploratory action to “try on” choices, such as in “realistic job previews” found in internships and other on-the-job experiences.

The challenge to career development and decision-making doesn’t end there.
Even if it’s possible to infer preferences from one’s behavior, those inferences are likely to change – a lot – over time.
This means that today’s career may not change in synchrony with one’s personal changes.

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel T. Gilbert and Jordi Quoidbach of Harvard collaborated with Timothy D. Wilson of the University of Virginia demonstrated this shift in in personalities, values, and preferences over decades of life – and people’s underestimate of these changes – and called it the “end of history illusion.”

Jordi Quoidbach

Jordi Quoidbach

They surveyed more than 19,000 people ages 18 to 68 and found that  young people, middle-aged people, and older people all believed they had changed a lot in the past decade but would change relatively little in the future decade.

Timothy Wilson

Timothy Wilson

The researchers reported that the typical 20-year-old woman participant’s predictions for her next decade were not nearly as radical as the typical 30-year-old woman’s recollection of how much she had changed in her 20s, with this trend holding for volunteers into their 60s.

They found that participants were able to accurately recall personality changes that correlated well expected results, based on independent research charting of personality trait shifts with age.

Gilbert, Quoidbach and Wilson conducted lab studies that found people tend to overpay for future opportunities to indulge their current preferences due to this “end of history” illusion.
This trend may have significant consequences when choices involve potential life partners, long-term financial commitments, and career choices.

These researchers suggest that people underestimate future changes because people may be threatened by the idea that current values and preferences are transitory.
They speculate that such a realization may lead people to doubt many decisions, and experience decision-slowing due to anxiety.

An alternate explanation is that the mental energy required to imagine future changes exceed the effort of recalling the past, so “people may confuse the difficulty of imagining personal change with the unlikelihood of change itself.”

Dan McAdams

Dan McAdams

Dan McAdams of Northwestern University seconded this view and added, “The end-of-history effect may represent a failure in personal imagination,” based on his observations of how people construct stories about their past and future lives in Identity and Story: Creating Self in Narrative (The Narrative Study of Lives).
He noticed that many people tell complex, dynamic stories about the past but then make vague, prosaic projections of a future similar to the present.

These findings suggest that introspection and standardized assessment instruments may have more value when coupled with observing one’s actual behavior and reflected impressions from others.

Additionally, it is wise to:

  • Anticipate the value of changing, expanding, or modifying one’s job role over time
  • Develop a wide array of transferrable skills, applicable across a variety of domains to increase the breadth of options for later preferences.
  • How do you uncover or infer your career strengths and preferences?
  • How do you monitor a possible “end of history” illusion when making career plans?

Related Posts

©Kathryn Welds

Happiness-Money Connection: Halo Effect of Happy Mood? Part 2

Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman

The Happiness-Money Connection: Halo Effect of Happy Mood? Part 1 outlined studies by Nobel Prize winner and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, with Angus Deaton and by British researchers Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and Andrew Oswald, documenting the long-term positive impact of subjective positive emotions on life outcomes including academic attainment, employment status, and income over time.Michael Norton’s research added the insight that money can buy happiness – if it’s used for other people.

Taken together, these findings point to the value of cultivating positive emotional states.

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman

Distinguished psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman was one of the first researchers to empirically investigate correlates of happiness and well-being, and his recent book,

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being recasts his

Flourish

earlier emphasis on Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.
He opined that “well-being” is a more accurate concept, defined by the acronym PERMA:

  • Positive Emotion
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

Authentic Happiness

Though this is largely a conceptual model, he offers several exercises like considering one’s “signature strengths” and “three blessings” or things that have gone well during a day.

Sonja Lyubomirsky of UC Riverside synthesized happiness-enhancing recommendations from self-help books in The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want,  and provided familiar happiness-enhancing strategies:The How of Happiness

  • Cultivate optimism, consciously stop negative thoughts
  • Avoid “overthinking“, social comparison
  • Practice kindness
  • Invest time in social relationships, family
  • Develop coping strategies
  • Forgive self, others
  • Increase “flow” experiences, do enjoyable things
  • Savor life’s joyful experiences
  • Live in the present
  • Commit to goals
  • Organize space, work, life
  • Participate in religious or meditative practice
  • Keep self-reflection Journals

The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin combined some of these recommendations with erudite references to great philosophers’ and thinkers’ guidance, health recommendations, and time-tested common sense in The Happiness Project.

Daniel Gilbert of Harvard’s bestseller, Stumbling on Happiness , synthesized social science research about imagined expected future outcomes and control over them in relation to the experience of happiness.Stumbling on Happiness

He noted that human imagination and prediction are inaccurate, so he suggested using “surrogates” of future events to more accurately test future satisfaction with real-life choices like having children, moving to a new home, or working in a new job.

Other ways to cultivate the Emotional Intelligence capabilities of positive emotional experience are highlighted in related Posts:

-*How have you cultivated happiness?
-*How have happiness and money been related in your experience?

Twitter: @kathrynwelds
Google+
LinkedIn Open Group The Executive Coach
Facebook Notes
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary 

©Kathryn Welds