Reducing Defensive Responses to Thoughts of Death: Meditation, Mindfulness, and Buddhism.

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Abstract

Three studies investigated the effects of meditation on responses to reminders of death. Study 1 took a quasi-experimental approach, comparing defensive responses to mortality salience (MS) of South Korean participants with varying levels of experience with Buddhism and meditation. Whereas non-Buddhists without meditation showed the typical increase in worldview defense after mortality salience (MS), this effect was not found among non-Buddhists immediately after an initial meditation experience, nor among lay Buddhists who meditated regularly or Buddhist monks with intensive meditation experience. Study 2, a fully randomized experiment, showed that MS increased worldview defense among South Koreans at a meditation training who were assessed before meditating but not among participants assessed after their first meditation experience. Study 3 showed that whereas American students without prior meditation experience showed increased worldview defense and suppression of death-related thoughts after MS, these effects were eliminated immediately after an initial meditation experience. Death thought accessibility mediated the effect of MS on worldview defense without meditation, but meditation eliminated this mediation. (PsycINFO Database Record

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