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Mindfulness meditation impairs task motivation but not performance

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Just found this and loved it. It turns out meditation can help you focus but it will not improve your work performance because you will be less motivated.

I find very interesting that it does find a very significant reduction of stress in meditators, but of course isn't stress the source of motivation, in a way?

So to those big corporations promoting mindfulness meditation at work. Good on you for taking care of the health of your workers, but do not expect significant increases in productivity.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S074959781630646X?via%3Dihub

Abstract: Astate of mindfulness is characterized by focused, nonjudgmental
awareness of the present moment. The current research experimentally
investigated how state mindfulness influences task motivation and
performance, using multiple meditation inductions, comparison
conditions, tasks, and participant samples. Mindfulness inductions,
relative to comparison conditions, reduced motivation to tackle mundane
tasks (Experiments 1–4) and pleasant tasks (Experiment 2). Decreased
future focus and decreased arousal serially mediated the demotivating
effect of mindfulness (Experiments 3 and 4). In contrast to changes in
motivation, inducing a state of mindfulness did not affect task
performance, as seen in all experiments but one (Experiments 2–5).
Meta-analyses of performance experiments, including unreported findings
(i.e., the file drawer), supported these conclusions. Experiment 5’s
serial mediation showed that mindfulness enabled people to detach from
stressors, which improved task focus. When combined with mindfulness’s
demotivating effects, these results help explain why mindfulness does
not alter performance.

RE: Mindfulness meditation impairs task motivation but not performance
Answer
7/31/20 1:56 AM as a reply to Daniel Mon.
Daniel Mon:
Just found this and loved it. It turns out meditation can help you focus but it will not improve your work performance because you will be less motivated.


This goes straight to the heart of WTF meditation is, and how far it can be turned into a tool of some sort for specific ends. The meditation researchers are often in the field trying to establish the "benefits" of meditation, and my basic gut response to this, at this point in the meditation-related difficulties that I call my life, is: tee-hee. It's sort of like saying, having a cute little tiger cub around relieves stress and brings about positive feelings in many people. Later, the tiger cub grows up and eats these people.
I find very interesting that it does find a very significant reduction of stress in meditators, but of course isn't stress the source of motivation, in a way?

Stress reduction as a short term motivator is indisputable, but again, the nature of the stress ends up being what I would be interested in. In a corporate setting--- i would include ashrams and monasteries in this, as some of the most fiendishly production-oriented places I've ever been in, with extremes of motivational crap that would shame any liberal middle manager, if not get them fired immediately, and possibly jailed--- a lot of the stress is for Results, as set forth by the corporate officers. To get free of the stress from your managers in such a situation is to get free of your job, in the long run. In this sense, meditation is a very good way to address corporate stress, in that it leads you often enough to say this shit won't fly and go elsewhere, somewhere saner, hopefully. 
So to those big corporations promoting mindfulness meditation at work. Good on you for taking care of the health of your workers, but do not expect significant increases in productivity.

I'm sure that will make corporations all across this great country of ours eager to fund meditation programs, given the corporate love for the health of workers and the general corporate mellowness about productivity.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S074959781630646X?via%3Dihub

Abstract: Astate of mindfulness is characterized by focused, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. The current research experimentally investigated how state mindfulness influences task motivation and performance, using multiple meditation inductions, comparison conditions, tasks, and participant samples. Mindfulness inductions, relative to comparison conditions, reduced motivation to tackle mundane tasks (Experiments 1–4) and pleasant tasks (Experiment 2). Decreased future focus and decreased arousal serially mediated the demotivating effect of mindfulness (Experiments 3 and 4). In contrast to changes in motivation, inducing a state of  indfulness did not affect task performance, as seen in all experiments but one (Experiments 2–5). Meta-analyses of performance experiments, including unreported findings (i.e., the file drawer), supported these conclusions. Experiment 5’s serial mediation showed that mindfulness enabled people to detach from stressors, which improved task focus. When combined with mindfulness’s demotivating effects, these results help explain why mindfulness does not alter performance.

seriously, this is a Dilbert cartoon. 





love, tim

RE: Mindfulness meditation impairs task motivation but not performance
Answer
7/31/20 10:43 AM as a reply to Daniel Mon.
Thanks for posting this, Daniel. This study makes sense to me. The better my practice is going, the less I care about my job. Greed, aversion, clinging, suffering, fixed views: these are the things that my work is built on. Reifying shit and then really, really caring about it, and caring what other people think about it, is what I am paid to do. <sigh>
I have tried applying Thích Nhất Hạnh's approach to washing the dishes to my work, but caring about the outcome seems to be essential to the analysis required for my work, and ending tasks quickly is directly tied to how much I earn. Why can't someone just come up with a way to cling without suffering. <g>

RE: Mindfulness meditation impairs task motivation but not performance
Answer
8/1/20 2:46 AM as a reply to Daniel Mon.
On the one hand, this sounds eminently plausible - on the other hand, one must consider what the paper actually reports: they did an experiment that consisted of subjecting people untrained in meditation to a 15-minute exercise in "mindfulness", and then evaluated their motivation to perform, and performance on, some random artificial task for research purposes. It is unclear, to say the least, how this sort of thing relates to what people on DhO are concerned with: the effects of serious intense meditation on life as a whole.

Keep in mind also that most published psychological research of this nature is false.

So I don't think this should cause us to update our expectations much - what was plausible a priori remains plausible, but barely becomes more so.

With you entirely on this Martin. 

Doesn't "prove" anything useful. 

I expect workers doing a little mindfulness practice may well be slightly less motivated. Good for them. Workers in at the deep end of this stuff are like to quit because they hit rough territory, or just realise how stupid their job is. 

I was in an online course quite recently for "effortless mindfulness" (mahamudra) and in week 4 or 5 this woman got to ask a question and she  said that her job was in politics and was all about power, influence, money and skullduggery and how she had loved it. But now, she "just couldn't be bothered"!

hehe emoticon

Hi y'all, and thanks for your comments.

I did find this reflected my experience quite well, but of course your milleage might vary and, as pointed out, this might not be representative of the experience of an experienced meditator.

However, I think that calling it "false" would be an overstatement. The article is set up in a very narrow set of conditions (unexperienced meditators, doing 15 min sits of "mindful" meditation, etc.), and it should (and it is) interpreted in that framework. Overinterpretations are all yours, don't blame the science. 

That said, my modest personal experience is that when I come back from a retreat and sit at work to do tasks that require high concentration I find it easier to focus but harder to find the motivation to do the tasks. My interpretation is that I usually motivate myself with an emotional mix of narcisism and guilt, and of course those feelings are dampened after a retreat (or simply easily discarded), and it is easier to find my work meaningless, even though in other circumstances I would usually find it quite motivating.

Of course meditators which have gone further in their practice might be completely over this and simply do what they need to do to sustain themselves, but for me it really represents how it works and I was happy to find some hard data to back up my experience.

Cheers, Daniel.

Martin:
"Why can't someone just come up with a way to cling without suffering"
Thanks Martin, glad to see that you liked it too. Loved this sentence by the way, "a way to cling without suffering" it really goes to the heart of why we are not enlightened I suppose, we still are attached to "clinging" and that's precisely why we suffer. We know this rationally and, yet, we still wish for clinging, I suppose that lingering "wish" is what keeps us trapped in Samsara until we manage to permeate and integrate at all levels the knowledge of the true nature of "clinging"  <3