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Mindfulness And Decision Making: Analysis Of A Popular Press Article Based On An Empirical

1072 words - 5 pages


Journalists simplify empirical research findings into consumer news stories by summarizing the study into interesting, nontechnical terms for the general public, potentially resulting in misleading information that deviates from the findings of the research (Morling, 2012). In the popular press article, "Mindfulness Meditation Can Help You Make Smarter Decisions", Christopher Bergland (2012) suggests that brief sessions of meditation can result in making "smarter" decisions. Bergland based this claim on a an empirical study conducted by Andrew Hafenbrack, Zoe Kinias, and Sigal Barsade, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychological Science (2014). This article (Bergland, 2014) proposes that doing meditation prevents succumbing sunk cost bias, defined in the peer-reviewed article (Hafenbrack et al., 2014) as the propensity to continue and endeavor after money, time, or effort has been invested. Though Hafenbrack (2014) accurately portrays the findings of the study, the article puts too much of an emphasis on the conclusions while essential details from the methods are left out, potentially misleading readers.
In a multipart experiment, Hafenbrack et al. (2014) devoted Study 1 to establishing a positive correlation between mindfulness meditation and resisting suck cost bias. However, the popular press article is centered around studies 2, 3, and 4 of the experiment, all of which make causal claims (Bergland, 2014). In his article, Bergland (2014) correctly indentifies the testing of causal hypotheses by Hafenbrack et al. (2014); however, he fails to mention that the first of the four studies makes an association claim and incorrectly categorizes it as a causal claim. While this inaccuracy does not mislead readers about the nature of the study, it incorrectly portrays the Hafenbrack et al. (2014) research design, as it is essential to establish an association between two variables in order to establish covariance, proof that as variable A changes variable B changes as well, before going on to prove causality (Morling, 2012).
In a causal study, the most important type of validity to establish is internal validity, assurance that the independent variable is the only factor contributing to changes in the dependent variable (Morling, 2012). The causal claim in studies 2, 3, and 4 hypothesized that listening to a 15 minute mindfulness meditation tape would result in more frequent resistance of cost bias when compared to a mind-wandering tape, the control condition (Hafenbrack et al., 2014). A major fault in Bergland's (2014) article is he presents very limited information about the methods of the study. His description provides that two groups listened to a fifteen-minute tape, to establish either a state of mindfulness or mind-wandering, and were subsequently asked to answer a question that involved a sunk cost decision (Bergland, 2014). Concerning internal validity, there is no discussion of how the study...

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