After mindfulness is defined, a brief history of the research on the topic to date is reviewed. This work essentially falls into three categories: health, business, and education. Considerations of mindlessness as a social issue are then addressed. A brief introduction to the articles in this issue follows. These articles speak to mindfulness as it relates to potential solutions to social problems.The main purpose of this issue is to offer social scientists and policy makers an alternative lens through which to view and understand the social phenomena and issues that interest them. Although the concept of mindfulness overlaps with many other constructs in psychology (a fuller discussion of this is provided in the following article, by Sternberg), it also offers some unique perspectives on how to investigate psychological processes. The concept of mindfulness and the related concept of mindlessness were introduced to social psychology more than 2 decades ago. They have been applied to many diverse areas, including psychopathology, developmental psychology, education research, political theory, and communication processes, to name a few.
A field experiment was conducted to assess the effects of enhanced personal responsibility and choice on a group of nursing home residents. It was expected that the debilitated condition of many of the aged residing in institutional settings is, at least in part, a result of living in a virtually decision-free environment and consequently is potentially reversible. Residents who were in the experimental group were given a communication emphasizing their responsibility for themselves, whereas the communication given to a second group stressed the staff's responsibility for them. In addition, to bolster the communication, the former group was given the freedom to make choices and the responsibility of caring for a plant rather than having decisions made and tbe plant taken care of for them by the staff, as was the case for the latter group. Questionnaire ratings and behavioral measures showed a significant improvement for the experimental group over the comparison group on alertness, active participation, and a general sense of well-being. 'i-quests for reprints should be sent to Ellen L ger, Social Personality Program, Graduate Cen
Three field experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that complex social behavior that appears to be enacted mindfully instead may be performed without conscious attention to relevant semantics. Subjects in compliance paradigms received communications that either were or were not semantically sensible, were or were not structurally consistent with their previous experience, and did or did not request an effortful response. It was hypothesized that unless the communication occasioned an effortful response or was structurally (rather than semantically) novel, responding that suggests ignorance of relevant information would occur. The predictions were confirmed for both oral and written communications. Social psychological theories that rely on humans actively processing incoming information are questioned in light of these results. Consider the image of man or woman as a creature who, for the most part, attends to the world about him or her and behaves on the basis of reasonable inference drawn from such attention. The view is flattering, perhaps, but is it an accurate accounting of covert human behavior? Social psychology is replete with theories that take for granted the "fact" that people think. Consistency theories (cf.
Attributions in a purely chance task (predicting coin tosses) were studied as a function of either a descending, ascending, or random sequence of outcomes and as a function of whether the subject performed the task himself or observed another subject performing the task. A primary effect was predicted, that is, that early successes would induce a skill orientation towards the task. The prediction was supported. Subjects in the descending condition rated themselves as significantly better at predicting the outcomes of coin tosses than subjects in either of the other two groups. This group also overremembered past successes and expected more future successes than the other two groupSt_Inyolyement had the effect of increasing subjects' expectations of future successes and tended to increase their evaluation of their past performance.
Mindfulness, achieved without meditation, is discussed with particular reference to learning. Being mindful is the simple act of drawing novel distinctions. It leads us to greater sensitivity to context and perspective, and ultimately to greater control over our lives. When we engage in mindful learning, we avoid forming mind-sets that unnecessarily limit us. Many of our beliefs about learning are mind-sets that have been mindlessly accepted to be true. Consideration is given to some of the consequences that result from a mindful reconsideration of these myths of learning.One of the primary issues in education today concerns the question of what should be taught in our schools. The research my colleagues and I have been conducting over several years now suggests that "what we teach" may be less important than "how we teach it." Moreover, the reconsidered rules for learning speak as much to learning outside the classroom as inside.Whenever we attempt to learn something, whether it is a new content area, a sport, the way to play a musical instrument, or a new way to approach our businesses or our relationships, we rely on ways of learning that typically work to our detriment and virtually prevent the very goals we are trying to accomplish. The mind-sets we hold regarding learning more often than not encourage mindlessness, although learning requires mindful engagement with the material in question. Before examining some of these mind-sets, it may be useful to define mindlessness and mindfulness and briefly review the results of research that reveals some of the costs of mindlessness, to make apparent why we might want to pursue mindful learning. MINDFULNESS AND MINDLESSNESS: DEFINITIONSMindfulness is a flexible state of mind in which we are actively engaged in the present, noticing new things and sensitive to context. When we are in a state of mindlessness, we act like automatons who have been programmed to act according to the sense our behavior made in the past, rather than the present. Instead of actively drawing new distinctions, noticing new things, as we do when we are mindful, when we are mindless we rely on distinctions drawn in the past. We are stuck in a single, rigid perspective, and we are oblivious to alternative ways of knowing. When we are mindless, our behavior is rule and routine governed; when we are mindful, rules and routines may guide our behavior rather than predetermine it.We cannot have the felt experience of being mindless; that would require mindfulness. Therefore, most of us think that we are mindful. However, we spend much more time "not there" than we know, and the consequences for us are real and often profound. When we believe we are encountering something novel, we approach it mindfully. When we believe we know something well, we tend to view it mindlessly. As will become clear, there is power in uncertainty, yet most of us mistakenly seek certainty.Experimental research, conducted over 25 years, reveals that the costs of mindlessness, and the benefits of mindfulness, are vast and of...
This study explores whether negative stereotypes about aging contribute to memory loss in old age. The research participants consisted of old and young Chinese hearing, American Deaf, and American hearing individuals. Members of the mainland Chinese and the American Deaf cultures were recruited on the basis of the belief that they would be less likely than hearing Americans to be exposed to and accept negative stereotypes about aging. The expected results were (a) an interaction in which the 3 groups of younger Ss would perform similarly on the memory tasks, whereas the older Deaf and older Chinese participants would outperform the older American hearing group and (b) a positive correlation between view toward aging and memory performance among the old Ss. The data supported both hypotheses. The results suggest that cultural beliefs about aging play a role in determining the degree of memory loss people experience in old age.
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