Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Mindfulness Meditation Improves Decisions, Reduces Sunk-Cost Bias

Sigal Barsade

Sigal Barsade

Brief meditation sessions can reduce the tendency to base current decisions on past “sunk costs,” which are not relevant to the present choice, reported Wharton’s Sigal Barsade, with Andrew C. Hafenbrack and Zoe Kinias both of INSEAD.

Andrew Hafenbrack

Andrew Hafenbrack

Sunk-cost bias” is the prevalent tendency to continue unsuccessful actions after time and money have been invested.
Frequent examples include:

  • Holding poorly-performing stock market investments
  • Staying in abusive interpersonal relationships
  • Continuing failing military engagements.
Zoe Kinias

Zoe Kinias

In these cases, people tend to focus on past behaviors rather than current circumstances, leading to emotion-driven decision biases.

Meditation practices can:

  • Enable increased focus on the present moment
  • Shift attention away from past and future actions
  • Reduce negative emotions.
Kirk Brown

Kirk Brown

Barsade, Hafenbrack, and Kinias asked volunteers to complete Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, a widely used trait-mindfulness scale developed by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Kirk Brown and Richard Ryan of University of Rochester.

Richard Ryan

Richard Ryan

In addition, they measured participants’ ability to resist “sunk cost” bias using Adult Decision-Making Competence Inventory, developed by Leeds University’s Wändi Bruine de Bruin with Baruch Fischhoff of Carnegie Mellon and Andrew M. Parker of RAND Corporation.

Wändi Bruine de Bruin

Wändi Bruine de Bruin

In a decision task, participants could choose to take an action or to do nothing, as a measure of vulnerability to sunk-cost bias.
Propensity to take action indicated resistance to the sunk-cost bias, whereas those who took no action were seen as influenced by the sunk-cost bias.

Baruch Fischhoff

Baruch Fischhoff

Volunteers who listened to a 15-minute focused-breathing guided meditation were more likely to choose action and resist the sunk-cost bias than those who had not heard the meditation instruction.

Andrew M Parker

Andrew M Parker

Barsade’s team controlled for participants’ age and trait self-esteem, noting that, “People who mediated focused less on the past and future, which led to them experiencing less negative emotion. That helped them reduce the sunk-cost bias.

Jochen Reb

Jochen Reb

Mindful attention also enables negotiators to craft better deals by “claiming a larger share of the bargaining zone” in distributive (“fixed pie”) negotiations, found Singapore Management University’s Jochen Reb and Jayanth Narayanan affiliated with National University of Singapore as well as University of California, Hastings College of the Law’s Darshan Brach.
These effective negotiators also expressed greater satisfaction with the     negotiation process and outcome. 

JAYANTH NARAYANAN

JAYANTH NARAYANAN

Mindful attention also leads to a lower negativity bias, the tendency to weigh negative information more heavily than positive, reported Virginia Commonwealth University’s Laura G. Kiken and Natalie J. Shook of West Virginia University.

They assessed negativity bias with BeanFest, developed by Shook, with Ohio State’s Russell Fazio and J. Richard Eiser of University of Sheffield.

Natalie Shook

Natalie Shook

This computer game asks participants to associate novel stimuli with positive or negative outcomes during attitude formation exercises.

Russell Fazio

Russell Fazio

Volunteers who listened to a mindfulness induction correctly classified positive and negative stimuli more equally, expressed greater optimism, and demonstrated less negativity bias in attitude formation than those in the control condition.

J Richard Eiser

J Richard Eiser

Mindful attention improves decision-making and enhances negotiation outcomes by reducing biases linked to negative emotions.
As a result, taking a brief mental break (“time-out”) during decision-making can improve choices and reduce the likelihood that “let the wrong emotions cloud the decision-making process.”

-*How do you evoke reduce bias in making decisions and crafting negotiation proposals?

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Mindfulness Impedes Implicit Learning, but May Enhance Explicit Learning

Chelsea Stillman

Chelsea Stillman

People typically develop habits without consciously and “mindfully” thinking about them, and habits often develop through “implicit” or unconscious learning.
Moreover, the trait of mindfulness can interfere with habit formation and pattern recognition, according to Georgetown’s Chelsea Stillman, Alyssa M. Coffin, James H. Howard and Darlene Howard.

Chelsea Stillman-Triplet Learning TaskMany recent studies linking positive outcomes to increased mindfulness, so this caveat may be surprising.

James Howard

James Howard

Adult volunteers completed an inventory that assessed their degree of mindfulness as a character trait rather than as a transient state.
They also completed either an alternating serial reaction time task or a triplet-learning task using colored circles to assess their ability to learn complex, probabilistic patterns.

Darlene Howard

Darlene Howard

Those who scored high on trait mindfulness were less effective in detecting and learning the patterns than those with lower mindfulness scores.

Stillman concluded that high attention and awareness of stimuli may inhibit implicit learning, suggesting many questions about situations in which mindfulness is most effective.

Previous blog posts noted that mind wandering may have other virtues, like enabling innovative problems solving.

Travis Proulx

Travis Proulx

Implicit learning, such as required to develop habits, is helped by “unrelated meaning threats” in addition to mindlessness, according to Tilburg University’s Travis Proulx and Steven J. Heine of University of British Columbia.

They provided volunteers with an “unrelated meaning threat” in a short story by Franz Kafka or in a task requiring participants to “argue against one’s own self-unity.” Other participants received no “unrelated meaning threat” to serve as a comparison group.

Steven Heine

Steven Heine

Those who received the threat showed increased detection of patterns within letter strings and better performance on a artificial-grammar learning task, in which they detected a novel pattern embedded in the letter strings.

Proulx and Heine concluded that people may use association patterns unrelated to the original meaning threat when trying to maintain meaning, which they called the “meaning-maintenance model.

Gavriel Solomon

Gavriel Solomon

Differing findings were reported by University of Haifa’s Gavriel Solomon and Tamar Globerson of Tel Aviv University, who found that mindfulness may augment explicit rather than implicit learning.
They argued that
effortful, volitional mindful attention is a key contributor to learning and bridging “the know-doing gap,” described by Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer, supporting recent “pro-mindfulness” findings.

Jeffrey Pfeffer

Jeffrey Pfeffer

-*How do you use mindfulness and mindlessness to enhance learning and creative problem solving?

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Measuring and Increasing Hope to Improve Performance, Health

Hope shifts focus from the present moment to action paths (“pathways”) required to achieve future goals and motivation to follow these goal routes (“agency”).

Some advocates of mindful attention to the present moment question cultivating hope because it focuses on the future instead of the present, despite abundant empirical evidence that hope is positively associated with academic achievement, health outcomes, and more.

Benjamn Franklin

Benjamn Franklin

Buddhist thinkers argued that hope is illusory and prolongs human suffering and even America’s sage, Benjamin Franklin, noted that one who lives on hope will die fasting.

C. RIck Snyder

C. RIck Snyder

In contrast, hope investigator University of Kansas’s Charles “Rick” Snyder substantiated the health and performance benefits of hope and distinguished hope from learned optimism, self-efficacy, and self-esteem.

He developed and validated measures of hope as a trait and as a state, evaluating “pathways” and “agency” beliefs, with collaborators Cheri Harris, John R Anderson, Sharon A. Holleran, Lori M Irving, Sandra T. Sigmon, Lauren Yoshinobu, June Gibb, Charyle Langelle, and Pat Harney.

Snyder and team reported that children and adults across ethnic and gender groups who scored higher in hope demonstrated:

He offered tips for setting goals and enhancing “pathways” and “agency” toward goals, including:

  • Prioritizing self-selected goals
  • Developing multiple paths for each goal
  • Expecting positive outcomes while designing ways to remove potential obstacles.
Pam Omidyar

Pam Omidyar

One practical application of Snyder’s Hope Theory is Re-Mission,video game for cancer patients, developed by HopeLab’s Pam Omidyar, Pam Kato, and UCLA’s Steven Cole.

Pam Kato

Pam Kato

Adolescent patients in remission with acute leukemia, lymphoma, and soft-tissue sarcoma are required to continue daily chemotherapy treatments for up to several years.
Those who miss even 20% of their daily treatments increase their mortality risk by 200%.

Steve Cole

Steve Cole

Kato collaborated with Cole, West Virginia University’s Andrew Bradlyn and Brad Pollock of University of Texas to evaluate video-game interventions to improve young people’s medication adherence.

 They conducted a randomized trial with baseline and 1 month and 3 month assessments at 34 medical centers in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Brad Pollock

Brad Pollock

Volunteers were 375 males and females between 13 to 29 years old undergoing chemotherapy for at least 4 months.
Participants in the video game tailored to young cancer patient increased adherence to chemotherapy by 50%, and showed increased self-efficacy and knowledge, compared with those who played commercial video games or no video games.

fMRI studies showed that their brains were most active when they played the game instead of observing the game interface.
Most active areas were:

  • Limbic structures including caudate, putamen, and nucleus accumbens, measuring anticipatory excitement before securing a reward
  • Thalamus, “the internet of the brain”
  • Hippocampus, the link between experience and long-term memory

Cole further evaluated Re-Mission and Zamzee, a motivational system to promote physical activity among young people, and now leads HopeLab’s Re-Mission 2 to further amplify positive health behavior and resilience.

-*How do you leverage hope to improve your work performance and health behaviors?

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Interpersonal Envy in Competitive Organizations and the “Search Inside Yourself” (SIY) Antidote

Workplace envy is rarely discussed, although it is a logical outcome of competition for scarce resources:  Recognition, advancement, power, reputation, compensation in explicit or implicit organizational “tournaments.”

Jayanth Narayanan

Jayanth Narayanan

National University of Singapore’s Jayanth Narayanan, Kenneth Tai, and Daniel McAllister broached the near-taboo of workplace envy as an inevitable outgrowth of social comparison and related “cognitive dissonance” in attempting to self-regulate or return to emotional and equity “homeostasis.”

Daniel McAllister

Daniel McAllister

They differentiated malicious envy from benign envy and argue that the latter can drive performance through emulating admired outcomes.

This process, called firgun in Hebrew, is characterized by happiness, envy, and support of others, and is positively related to organizational success.
Mudita in Buddhist texts, refers to similar feelings of vicarious joy at another’s success and good fortune.

Hidehiko Takahashi

Hidehiko Takahashi

Narayan and team posit that envy is pain at another’s good fortune, and Hidehiko Takahashi’s team at Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences demonstrated that the social-emotional pain of envy is a variation of the physical pain experience.

Their fMRI study found that the emotional pain of workplace envy is physically manifested in activation of the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex.

Nathan DeWall

Nathan DeWall

As such, Nathan DeWall of University of Kentucky and colleagues reported that Tylenol™ reduces behavioral and neural responses associated with social pain in two fMRI studies.

Narayanan argues that envy exerts its differential effect on workplace behavior through each individual’s specific:

  • Core self-evaluations (self-esteem, self-efficacy, locus of control, and neuroticism),
  • Referent cognitions” regarding warmth, likeability, and competence of the envied  person
  • Perceived organizational support

Workplace envy, they argue, can affect:

  • Social undermining
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Job performance

Narayanan and team proposed that those with higher self-esteem are less prone to negative workplace behaviors when experiencing on-the-job envy.

They propose that people are less likely to socially undermine the envied individual when the envied person is viewed as both warm-likeable and competent.

Similarly, they suggest that people who think their organization values them and their work, and supports their work and career development efforts are less likely to decrease job performance when envious at work.

Chade-Meng Tan

Chade-Meng Tan

Search Inside YourselfGoogle’s Jolly Good Fellow ChadeMeng Tan proposes the mindfulness-based program “Search Inside Yourself” (SIY) as a way to self-manage workplace envy and other painful social experiences, by developing skills in:

  • Trained attention
  • Self-knowledge and self-mastery
  • Creating useful mental habits.

-*How do you manage workplace envy when you notice it in yourself or others?

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Why Organizations Care about Employee “Happiness”

“Command-and-control” managers of the past might have scoffed at current business research on happiness.
Under their spans-of-control, employees ought to have been happy to have a job from which they derived an income.
This view has been supplanted by widespread recognition that desirable outcomes like innovative problem solving, flexible decision making, and workplace productivity are associated with employees’ positive mood.

GallupResearch by the Gallup Organization offers further justification in its finding that disgruntled employees disengage and cost the American economy up to $350 billion a year in lost productivity.

Therefore, organizations can increase financial performance by improving operational efficiency in the many processes involving people.

Sigal Barsade

Sigal Barsade

Sigal Barsade of the Wharton School of Business contributed to the investigation of happiness’s impact on organizational productivity.
She found that positive moods prompt “more flexible decision-making, wider search behavior and greater analytic precision,” which enable the organization to take considered risks.

Jennifer Aaker

Jennifer Aaker

On the other coast, Jennifer Aaker, award-winning professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, links workplace happiness and a sense of meaning.

She asserts that having a meaningful impact on the world is a strong predictor of happiness and that it’s possible to cultivate mindfulness and awareness of meaning in work and personal activities.
This cultivated awareness, she said, influences people’s subjective well-being and may positively affect that of others in a contagion effect.

Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt

New York University’s Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist in the Stern School of Business, takes a more philosophical view of happiness.
He redefines “wisdom” – other might say “leadership” or “self-management” – as the ability to adapt, shape the environment, and know when to move to new environments.

His moral and ethical framework includes high-level philosophical “virtues” associated with a sense of well-being and shared across cultures:

  • Courage
  • Humanity
  • Justice
  • Temperance
  • Transcendence

The Happiness HypothesisHaidt’s book, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom , specified contributors to well-being:

  • Strong marriages
  • Physical touch
  • Meaningful relationships
  • Religious affiliation
  • Autonomy
  • Meaningful engagement in work
  • Contributing to a community through voluntary effort

Engineering organizations analyze issues according to “Is-Is Not.
Using this approach, Jonathan Haidt’s research offered some surprising happiness detractors or “is-nots”:

  • Persistent noise
  • Long commutes
  • Lack of situational and person control
  • Shame
  • Dysfunctional relationships

Matthias Mehl

Matthias Mehl

Matthias Mehl of the University of Arizona offered an additional contributor to happiness: Interpersonal dialog.
He found that volunteers who engaged in a meaningful conversation create shared meaning, strengthened their connections, and reported feeling happy.

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Jennifer Michael Hecht’s The Happiness Myth, offers a framework for types and levels of happiness:

  • Good day, awareness, savoring, and gratitude for the fortunate conditions of one’s life
  • Good life, engaging in meaningful and challenging tasks that help provide a material quality of life and doing one’s best in any endeavor
  • Peak, choosing experiences that inspire awe and a sense of the eternal, connect to families and communities.

The Happiness MythShe cites familiar recommendations to:

  • Cultivate self-knowledge
  • Develop a clear view of one’s worth
  • Moderate desires
  • Appreciate mortality and time limits
  • Try new things
  • Increase involvement with others and the community.

Organizational policies can contribute to employees’ sense of well-being through establishing:

  • Opportunities for career movement and development
  • Regular acknowledgement and praise for a job well done
  • Focus on well-being as individuals through health and work/life integration programs

The payoffs to organizations include increased productivity, innovation and engagement.

-*How have you seen efforts to increase organizational “happiness” result in improved employee engagement, productivity, or decision-making?

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How to Change Habits: Jamming the “Flywheel of Society”

William James

William James

William James, father of American psychology and brother of novelist Henry James wrote in his 1890 The Principles of Psychology, “Habit is thus the enormous flywheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor.”

Though James seemed to look favorably upon the conservative element of habit, the drawbacks of thoughtless habitual actions are clear when people consume more calories than required to complete daily activities, purchase unneeded items, react with predictable emotions in contentious situations, and keep disadvantaged groups without advantages enjoyed by powerful groups.

Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg’s bestseller, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, argues that habits are a significant part of most people’s daily activities – about 40% – and that even brain injured people can form habits.

The Power of HabitHe outlines the A(ntecedant) – B(ehavior) – C(onsequence) model, initiated by a cue or a trigger that signals automatic or habitual behavior.
In a novel situation, the person shifts to a problem-solving mode to develop an appropriate response — which may require creative thinking .

However, in a more typical situation, the person executes the habitual physical, mental, or emotional behavior or “routine,” which is then rewarded — often with a reduction in anxiety or discomfort.

Duhigg shows how dysfunctional habits can be analyzed for the cue, routine, and reward, then changed by modifying the antecedent, behavior or reward.

Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis

The A-B-C approach was popularized by Albert Ellis in his Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (RET), and outlined in his more than 50 books including Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy  Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Duhigg provides examples from marketing campaigns for well-known consumer products in the U.S., including Pepsodent toothpaste and Febreze air freshener.

Timothy Wilson

Timothy Wilson

Like Duhigg’s model’s reference to earlier behavior modification approaches, Timothy Wilson of University of Virginia’s Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, adapts principles of Aaron T. Beck’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to change habitual interpretations, attributions, narratives and personal stories that lead to social problems including alcohol and drug abuse, teen violence and pregnancies, and social prejudice.

Aaron Beck

Aaron Beck

Wilson extracts and renames three empirically-validated behavioral techniques:

  • Story editing, to craft a more optimistic, hopeful story or interpretation about a situation, often using writing exercises
  • Story prompting, in which another person provides alternate, more optimistic interpretations based on data or “social proof” from  experiences in a similar situation
  • Cognitive Behavior TherapyDo good, be good, by “acting as if” the new behavior is a well-established habit, often through serving others in volunteer work.

RedirectRSA talk

Another look at habitual, even unconscious thinking in daily life is featured in a related post, Pattern Recognition in Entrepreneurship.

Douglas Van Praet

Douglas Van Praet

This discussion shares Douglas Van Praet’s guidelines to capitalize on unconscious cognitive processing and automatic buying behavior in Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing 

BJ Fogg

BJ Fogg

An earlier post, Hacking Human Behavior: “Tiny Habits” Start, Maintain Changes showcased BJ Fogg’s work on “tiny habits” as hooks to behavior change.
His approach draws on many of the same behavior modification principles featured in Duhigg’s and Wilson’s recommendations to analyze habitual cues, routines, and rewards.

-*How do you analyze and modify habits?

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First Emotionally Intelligent, Mindful Presidents: Barack Obama, Peter Salovey?

Peter Salovey

Peter Salovey, newly appointed President-Elect of Yale University, introduced the term “Emotional Intelligence” in 1989 as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions”.

Yale’s new President, is considered a pioneer and originator of research into four elements of EQ used to think and behave adaptively:

  • Accurately perceiving, identifying, pinpointing emotions in self, others
  • Expressing, using emotions as information to decide,  plan, achieve, communicate, create, think
  • Understanding, predicting own and others’ emotions, temporary moods
  • Self-regulating, transforming emotions.
  • Peter Salovey

    Salovey is widely regarded as one who embodies these characteristics and creates community  through his bluegrass band performances with Professors of Bluegrass, active participation in student life (as a Super Mario Brother at Halloween 2009, accompanied by the Yale Symphony orchestra during his tenure as Provost), and award-winning teaching and research.

He applied EQ concepts to business with David Caruso in The Emotionally Intelligent Manager: How to Develop and Use the Four Key Emotional Skills of Leadership

Emotional Intelligence can be intentionally increased in work and personal settings by increasing awareness of one’s own and others’ emotions.
One way to achieve this goal is through “Mindfulness,” or non-evaluatively, non-judgmentally attending to physical, cognitive, and emotional experiences arising in the present moment.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced this practice in 1979 and founded Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
His programs and books, including Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–and Your Life  help develop skill in being “present” through:

  • Observing – expanded awareness with detachment
  • Describing
  • Participating fully
  • Focused, narrowed attention

He discussed the possible impact of these practices on business leadership and government, building on research findings that mindfulness practice can lower aggressive feelings and increase peaceful sentiments.

Kabat-Zinn provided an example in recently-re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama is the first mindful President, “…since Lincoln, or maybe ever.”

The Dalai Lama, Barack Obama

He added that Obama “… is really present, he has a lot of different qualities that seem to indicate he is emotionally balanced, not driven by ego concerns, that he knows how to balance family life and the impossible job that he has.
There is something about him that’s measured, very peaceful, he listens very, very deeply.”

Many observers will evaluate whether Salovey can put into practice Emotionally Intelligent leadership at Yale, and whether Barack Obama can demonstrate Mindfulness in peaceful international relations and domestic issue-resolution during his final term in office.

-*Where do you observe emotional intelligence and mindfulness among top leaders?

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