Meditation: Rationales, Experimental Effects, and Methodological Issues
Final rept. Sep 1984-Aug 1985
HULL UNIV (UNITED KINGDOM) DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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This report provides a critical evaluation of the published work on meditation. It consists of four major sections Mystical Aspects of Meditation, Psychological Effects, Physiological Effects and Methodological Issues. It is found that Western versions of meditation diverge significantly in their rationales and purposes from the Eastern practices on which they are based. In the East, meditation is a religious practice that has spiritual goals. Although it has retained a mystical flavour in the West, it is employed primarily as a means of counteracting the stresses of modern life. This application of meditation is thought to operate by inducing a state of bodily and mental relaxation mainly through the control of attention and the regulation of breathing. There is some evidence that meditative techniques have therapeutic value in protecting against the pathogenic effects of stress. However, it is not proven that they are significantly more effective than other behavioural methods for inducing relaxation. Neither are the physiological or psychological effects of meditation difference from those associated with relaxation. Furthermore the effectiveness of both meditation and these other relaxation techniques appears to be strongly influenced by factors which have not been systematically investigated such as the beliefs of subjects and their confidence in the techniques.