Mindfulness, once considered a fringe activity in the West, has become the go-to antidote for today’s psychological ailments. But now the propelling force behind its popularity—the hard science to back its supposed benefits—is being called into question.

A study by academics and scientists across the country, titled “Mind the Hype” and published in Perspectives on Psychological Science on October 11, identifies several flaws in the mindfulness movement’s empirical support.

Related: Don’t Believe the Hype

The authors cite the ambiguity of the term “mindfulness” and question the dependence on first-person accounts in meditation research as well as the likelihood of researchers’ confirmation bias as reasons to revisit what we “know” about the topic.

“With current use of umbrella terms,” the authors write, “a five-minute meditation exercise from a popular phone application might be treated the same as a three-month meditation retreat (both labeled as meditation), and a self-report questionnaire might be equated with the characteristics of someone who has spent decades practicing a particular type of meditation (both labeled as mindfulness).”

The authors also refer to “eager journalists” and academic press offices that have overinterpreted tentative scientific results, releasing them to the public as if they were firmly grounded facts.

In 2014, Tricycle published “Don’t Believe the Hype,” an interview with the late neuroscientist Catherine Kerr, who expressed similar concerns about the portrayal of mindfulness meditation in the media.

By demanding greater rigor and objective methodologies for future studies, the authors of “Mind the Hype” set the stage for obtaining verifiable evidence of mindfulness’ effects.

You can read the full paper here.


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