Mindfulness meditation may lead to a lack of guilt, study says


According to a new study by researchers at the University of Washington, mindfulness reduced levels of guilt in participants but also resulted in a decrease of reparative behaviors, suggesting a negative consequence to the practice.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, involved 1,400 adult participants from the United States and Portugal. For the first experiment, participants were asked to write about a personal experience that had made them feel guilty or about what they did the day before. Next, they were split into groups. The first group listened to an eight-minute guided mindfulness mediation. The second group were told to let their minds wander for eight minutes. After the experiment, participants who meditated reported feeling less feelings of guilt compared to the control group.

The researchers conducted six more experiments that focused on how mindfulness meditation influenced the participants’ intentions of reparative behaviors.  For instance, one experiment asked participants to think of someone they had wronged. Researchers divided the subjects into two groups. One group was guided through a mindfulness meditation and the other did not meditate at all. When asked to split up a $100 gift card among the person they had wronged, African flood victims, and themselves, results showed that those who meditated allocated 17 percent less money to the person who they wronged compared to the control group.

The last experiment began with patients again, thinking about a person they had wronged. Next, some participants listened to a guided breathing mindfulness meditation, and some listened to a meditation about love and kindness. Those who listened to the meditation on love and kindness were more likely to intend to contact, apologize, and make amends with the person who they wronged in comparison to the breathing meditation group.

“Our research suggests that loving-kindness meditation may allow people to have the stress-reduction benefits of meditation without the cost of reducing repair, because it increases focus on others and feelings of love,” said co-author Matthew LaPalme, PhD, research scientist at Amazon.

Although mindfulness meditation has been shown to have beneficial effects on mental health, this study suggests that mindfulness may reduce feelings of guilt in some people  as well as reduce reparative actions.