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The Effect of Mindfulness on Cognitive Reflection and Reasoning

Farrar, S. T., Yarrow, K. ORCID: 0000-0003-0666-2163 & Tapper, K. ORCID: 0000-0001-9097-6311 (2020). The Effect of Mindfulness on Cognitive Reflection and Reasoning. Mindfulness, 11(9), pp. 2150-2160. doi: 10.1007/s12671-020-01429-z


Cognitive decoupling (the ability to distinguish supposition from belief and run thought experiments) is considered one of the key mechanisms in mindfulness, cognitive reflection and reasoning. Therefore, the present study examined whether a brief mindfulness exercise that explicitly encourages cognitive decoupling can increase cognitive reflection and reasoning.

A total of 156 first- and second-year undergraduate students were randomly allocated to either a mindfulness or control condition, before listening to a 15-min audio recording. The mindfulness audio was a recording of the leaves on a stream exercise that focussed on how to dissociate from thoughts (decentring), whereas the control audio was a recording of a book prologue. Cognitive reflection and reasoning were measured through the expanded cognitive reflection test and a syllogistic reasoning test, both of which encourage an incorrect automatic response rather than a correct rational response. The five-facet mindfulness questionnaire-short form and the rational-experiential inventory were also administered as trait measures of mindfulness and thinking style (intuitive or rational), respectively.

The results showed no significant difference between the mindfulness and control conditions on either of the cognitive tests. However, there was a significant positive correlation between trait mindfulness and trait rationality (r = 0.56). Further analyses showed that the mindfulness subscales of observing, describing, detaching, and acting mindfully were all significant predictors of trait rationality.

Trait mindfulness and trait rationality are moderately associated, although more research is required to determine whether mindfulness training can increase cognitive reflection and reasoning.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a pre-print of an article published in Mindfulness. The final authenticated version is available online at:
Publisher Keywords: Mindfulness, Meditation, Decentring, Cognitive reflection, Reasoning
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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