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The Present Paradigm

Richard Chambers

The research outlined above suggests that mindfulness training may have significant benefits for psychological wellbeing, potentially mediated by enhanced executive function and concomitantly decreased emotional reactivity. However, previous research has tended to centre around Kabat-Zinn's (1982) Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention, which teaches mindfulness skills over an 8-week period of once-weekly, 2-hour sessions (with 45 minutes of daily mindfulness meditation practice as "homework", and one 7-hour full-day session). In addition, many such studies have employed observational or quasi-experimental designs. By contrast, the present study investigated the changes effected by a 10-day intensive Vipassana course, using validated psychological measures and a rigorous test-retest experimental design. However, the terms "mindfulness" and "Vipassana" are used interchangeably throughout, consistent with the literature.

The present paradigm utilised various self-report measures of affect, rumination, and mindfulness, a performance measure of working memory capacity, and an innovative experimental "Internal Switching" task designed to directly tap into the ability to shift attention between alternative internal mental representations. These will be assessed among people prior to and after completing their first 10-day Vipassana course. It is proposed that changes in performance on the Internal Switching task and the Digit Span Backward subscale of the WAIS III will reflect enhanced executive function, and that this will mediate improved self-reports of mindfulness, rumination, and psychological wellbeing. This study will thus evaluate the salience of executive function as a mediator of the observed benefits of mindfulness training on psychological wellbeing.

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