The Science of Meditation

Welcome to the research database, blog and discussion forum for the study of the science of meditation. This website is a work in progress which began in August 2016. If you cast your minds back to that time, you may remember it was a remarkably optimistic period for meditation research. Mindfulness was being fast-tracked as a universal health intervention and the UK Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) had promoted mindfulness as a central pillar of social policy. But by 2018, a very different view of meditation research emerged from the peer-reviewed literature. Systematic analysis demonstrated that there was a mindfulness crisis in addition to the more general replication crisis in psychology. Three limitations characterise the known problems in mindfulness research;  i) inadequate theoretical frameworks, ii) unreliable methodologies and iii) a failure to consider potential adverse effects of medicalised meditation. This new uncertainty has set up several problems for the scientific community, not least how to explain such a crisis in a well-established research field.

We know that the effects of meditation have been scientifically studied for at least eighty years. Published studies built up over time, in 2015 alone we know that over 1,100 meditation studies were published. My conservative estimate is that there are over 7,000 experimental and clinical meditation studies out there. In addition, there are likely to be over 1,000 studies from non-positivist perspectives originating in different disciplines. The vast majority of this research project is explicitly linked to mindfulness meditation. However, many of the studies reviewed here provide evidence of the curative potential of meditation technologies. This blog’s role is not to try to square this circle; to explain how the mindfulness crisis came about or where solutions might rest, instead, we aim to reflect the changing challenges and opportunities in meditation research. If you are aware of material that you think we should feature submit details here.

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