Thursday, November 7, 2013

Less Likely to be Blown Off Course by the Winds of Life

     "A new study from the University of Toronto Scarborough shows that people who are aware of their own thoughts and emotions are less affected by positive feedback from others.
     The study, authored by UTSC PhD candidate Rimma Teper, finds that individuals high in the trait known as mindfulness show less neural response to positive feedback than their less mindful peers.
     'These findings suggest that mindful individuals may be less affected by immediate rewards and fits well with the idea that mindful individuals are typically less impulsive' says Teper.
     Mindfulness is characterized by an ability to recognize and accept one’s thoughts and emotions without judgment. Mindful individuals are much better at letting their feelings and thoughts go rather than getting carried away.
     Using electroencephalography (EEG) the brain activity of participants was recorded while they completed a reaction time task on a computer. The authors were interested in participants’ brain activity in response to receiving performance feedback that was rewarding, neutral or negative in nature. Not only were mindful individuals less responsive to rewarding feedback compared to others, they also showed less difference in their neural response to neutral versus rewarding feedback.
     'Many studies, including our own past work, have shown that people who meditate, and mindful individuals exhibit improved self-control. If mindful individuals are also less affected by immediate rewards, as our study suggests, this may help explain why,' says Teper’s PhD supervisor and UTSC psychology professor Michael Inzlicht.
     The findings also reflect further clinical research that supports the notion of accepting one’s emotions is an important indicator of mental well-being.
     'Individuals who are problem gamblers for instance show more brain reactivity to immediate rewards, because they are typically more impulsive,' says Teper."

       Don Campbell is a writer with the University of Toronto Scarborough.

       Teper R, Inzlicht M. Mindful Acceptance Dampens Neuroaffective Reactions to External and Rewarding Performance Feedback. Emotion 2013; epub 2013/10/09.

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