Monday, February 16, 2015

I need to write a paper: let's see how many other things can I think about.

You’re in college sitting at your desk. You're about to start writing a paper or study for an exam, when suddenly the following questions become very important: What should I eat for dinner? What did my roommate mean earlier by that comment? When is that exam for that other class? I didn’t do so well on the last assignment…. Have I called my mom yet? For undergraduate students (and really for all of us), mind wandering can keep us from from getting the important things done. A recent study at the University of Miami investigated whether a 7 week mindfulness training developed specifically for undergraduates would help increase students' focus, and reduce their mind wandering.

The experimenters tested students’ attention and working memory both before and after the 7 week training. Though there was no significant difference in working memory, there was a significant difference in student’s ability to focus and sustain their attention. While those in the control group actually got worse after the 7 weeks, those in the mindfulness training scored better on the attentional task as well as reported less mind wandering during the task. Trainings like this could be promising for undergraduate students, for whom so much of their academic success depends on their ability to sit down and focus. Right after they figure out what they're eating for dinner.

Keryn Breiterman-Loader

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