Mindfulness

An exciting recent advance in the lab’s research agenda has been an examination of the impact of meditation and mindfulness techniques on attenuating mind-wandering.  Conceptually speaking mind-wandering, which entails the mind’s drifting away from the here and now, can be conceived of as something akin to the opposite of mindfulness, in which the mind is focused on the present.  A recent article by Mrazek, Smallwood, and Schooler (2012) demonstrated that individuals who show a penchant for mindfulness (as measured by a variety of pre-existing self report measures) are less inclined to mind-wander in the laboratory.   Perhaps even more importantly this study further demonstrated that a simple technique for enhancing mindfulness (attending to the breath for 10 minutes) reduces the behavioral consequences of mind-wandering.    We are also extremely encouraged by results of a recent meditation training study (Mrazek et al, 2013) in which undergraduates received either a two week meditation class or a two week nutrition class.  Comparisons between performance on pre and post test measures of both mind-wandering and reading comprehension revealed a marked reduction in mind-wandering and improvement in reading performance for participants in the meditation training condition, but no change for participants in the nutrition condition.  

News

Selected Publications

Researchers

Jonathan Schooler

My lab’s research takes a “big picture” perspective in attempting to understand the nature of mental life, and in particular consciousness. Combining empirical, philosophical, and contemplative traditions, we address broad questions that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries.

James Elliott

James Elliott, Ph.D, is a cognitive neuroscientist with a background in behavioral, EEG, and fMRI methodologies. He has a keen interest in exploring how traditional meditation techniques can be used to help inform a scientific understanding of consciousness. 

Michael Mrazek

Michael Mrazek, Ph.D. is the director of research at the University of California's Center for Mindfulness & Human Potential. His research identifies innovative ways to increase the effectiveness of mindfulness training, particularly in high schools. He also tests the limits of how much a person can improve through intensive evidence-based training programs that target health, mindfulness, and self-control. 

Alissa Mrazek

Alissa Mrazek is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at UT Austin as well as a long-time collaborator with the META Lab. Alissa conducted a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Mindfulness and Human Potential with Dr. Jonathan Schooler from 2016-2020. Before working at UCSB, Alissa completed her Ph.D. in 2016 at Northwestern University where she began appreciating the synergistic benefits of integrative interventions—particularly when combining mindset training with strategy training. 

Dharma Lewis

Dharma is a fifth year Biopsychology student and the current lab manager of the META lab. She is interested in interdisciplinary cognitive science and the pedagogical implications of consciousness-related phenomena, like mind wandering and meta-cognition. Currently, she is aiming to increase the accessibility of modern mindfulness in an academic context, and examine the electrophysiological underpinnings of conscious experience.

Jinny Kim

My name is Jinny Kim, and I am a 3rd year Biopsychology major and Applied Psychology minor. I am assisting James Elliott regarding fluctuations of experience and EEG during meditation. My specific interests are dream analysis and psychotherapy for criminals.

Alexandra Parker

Alex is a fourth year Psychological and Brain Sciences major. She is assisting Josh Ortega with his research on transliminality, how it manifests within the dream-wake cycle, and the implications this may have for thought content and sleep quality. Her interests include mindfulness, meta awareness, and how meditation practices can be incorporated into psychological/psychiatric treatment.

Kiana Sabugo

Kiana is an undergraduate Psychological & Brain Sciences and Philosophy double major. She is currently assisting James Elliott in studying fluctuations of mental states during meditation using EEG. Her interests include meta-awareness and belief in free will/determinism.

Brooke Schwartzman

Brooke is a third year Psychological and Brain Sciences Major. She has a keen interest in mindfulness, complex trauma, neuroplasticity, and the interplay between these domains. Brooke is currently assisting Alex Landry in his exploration into dehumanization in intergroup conflict.

Shivang Shelat

Shivang's interests lie in human-machine interaction, consciousness, and fatigue. He is currently researching the effects of meditation on psychomotor vigilance, divergent thinking, and phenomenology of thought.