Monday, July 9, 2018

Meditation under the microscope

Is meditation the panacea it's cracked up to be? Maybe not says this report. Many of the studies are conducted by meditation teachers and infected with confirmation bias. And few of the negative effects are ever reported. Some excerpts:

"Our meta-analysis indicated that meditation did indeed have a positive, though moderate, impact on prosociality. But digging deeper, the picture became more complicated. While meditation made people feel somewhat more compassionate or empathetic, it did not reduce aggression or prejudice, nor did it improve how socially connected one felt. So the prosocial benefits are not straightforward, but they are apparently measurable. The issue is the way in which those benefits were measured."

" And here the results of our analysis suggest that meditation per se does not, alas, make the world a more compassionate place. [...] We found that compassion increased only in those studies where the author was also the teacher of the intervention. [...] The prevalence of experimenter bias is only one side of the coin. Another troubling but rarely discussed bias concerns data-analysis and reporting. [...Such biases] were overwhelmingly present in the meditation literature we reviewed."

"But what if meditation doesn’t work for you? Or worse, what if it makes you feel depressed, anxious or psychotic? [...] In The Buddha Pill (2015), Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm take a critical look at the symptoms of depression, anxiety, restlessness, mania and psychosis that are triggered directly by meditation. They argue that the prevalence of adverse effects has not been assessed by the scientific community. [...] But a simple search on Google shows that reports of depression, anxiety and mania are not uncommon in meditation forums and blogs."

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