Media Releases

Mindful individuals less affected by immediate rewards

November 1, 2013

TORONTO, ON — A new study from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Scar­bor­ough shows that peo­ple who are aware of and 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 trait 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.

Trait 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.

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.

“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 research was pub­lished this week in the jour­nal Emo­tion.


For more infor­ma­tion con­tact:

Rim­ma Teper
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Scar­bor­ough
Depart­ment of Psy­chol­o­gy