Friday, March 14, 2014

Mindfulness meditation improves decision-making skills

A recent series of studies suggest that mindfulness meditation can improved decision making, by reducing the tendency to allow unrecoverable prior losses to influence current choices.

Mindfulness meditation is a practice typically aimed at clearing one's mind, usually achieved by sitting quietly and focusing on the sensation of breathing. It is a technique often used to cultivate awareness of the present moment, as opposed to dwelling on past events or those that may occur in the future.

Mindfulness has been linked with reduced stress, anger and negative emotions as well as increased happiness and well-being -- all of which are thought to influence decision making and sunk-cost bias.

Sunk-Cost Bias

Sunk-cost bias is the tendency to let unrecoverable prior costs influence decision making. Common examples in everyday life include the difficulty in ignoring advice that has been paid for and changing plans that one has invested time in.

This type of behavior is sometimes attributed to people not wanting to appear wasteful or admit defeat, which can cause difficulty in letting past events go. This can lead to major bias in decision making.

The Study 

Researchers from INSEAD and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania hypothesized that, because mindfulness meditation cultivates awareness of the present, it may reduce the tendency of prior losses to impact the decision-making process.

Four studies were undertaken, the first of which investigated the correlation between trait mindfulness and resistance against the sunk-cost bias. A sample of 178 online participants in the USA completed the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale and carried out a series of sunk-cost bias evaluation questions.

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