While most modern research focuses on the clinical benefits of mindfulness, an emerging body of work suggests that mindfulness can facilitate self-regulation of everyday thinking in typically developing individuals. This behaviour is best captured using critical thinking assessments. The aim of this paper is to describe a rigorous, pre-registered study which will investigate the effect of an online mindfulness intervention on Executive Functioning, critical thinking skills and associated thinking dispositions.
The design employed is a randomised-controlled 2 (condition) X 2 (time) parallel-group design which is explanatory in nature. A sample of at least 60 participants will be recruited from the pool of students at NUI Galway, with those between the ages of 18 and 65 with an adequate level of English included. Participants will be randomly assigned following screening, using block randomisation with a fixed block of 6 and a 1:1 ratio, to either the mindfulness meditation group or a sham meditation group. Both groups will be given access to the Headspace app. This is an app which provides guided meditations to users. Participants in each group will receive unique codes granting access to either the experimental or active-control intervention materials. Group allocation will be double-blinded. The primary outcome measures will assess mindfulness, executive functioning, critical thinking, actively open-minded thinking and need for cognition. Secondary outcome measures will assess eudaimonic and hedonic wellbeing, positive and negative affect, and real-world outcomes. These will be measured at baseline and at the end of the intervention. Manipulation checks will assess adherence to the intervention, meditation quality and task difficulty and enjoyment.
If this intervention proves effective, it will show the potential of mindfulness practice to facilitate everyday critical thinking and should stimulate more interest in this line of research. If ineffective, claims regarding mindfulness and thinking skills should be tempered. This research was funded by a Galway Doctoral Research Scholarship awarded to the first author and was facilitated by Headspace Inc. who provided the intervention materials. The trial is registered in the ISRCTN registry and any protocol amendments will be recorded there (RCT ID: ISRCTN16588423. Registered 7th January 2016).