In a recent pair of studies on mindfulness and personality, subjects were given the “Magical Thinking” subscale of the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire. This subscale consists of questions about experiences with the supernatural, telepathy, clairvoyance, astrology, UFOs, and the like. In both studies, subjects who practiced mindfulness meditation were more likely than non-meditators to report magical thinking – that is, paranormal beliefs and experiences.
In the second study, subjects were also given the Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire. The five facets are:
Observing: noticing or attending to internal and external experiences.
Describing: labeling internal experiences with words.
Acting with awareness: attending to one’s activities of the moment (not on “automatic pilot”).
Nonjudging: taking a nonevaluative stance toward thoughts and feelings.
Nonreactivity: allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go, without getting caught up in them.
Meditators scored significantly higher on the Observing, Nonjudging and Non-reactivity facets than non-meditators. The study authors speculated that these characteristics may foster “Openness to Experience” (OE), which has been positively correlated to paranormal beliefs in other research. They note that a robust literature already links the practice of mindfulness meditation to OE.
It makes sense. Paying attention to experiences without judgment or reactivity can make one receptive to all sorts of nonsense. It’s like opening the door and letting in anyone who shows up, because to turn them away would be an act of judgment. And to spend time considering whether you like these people or want them in your home would be reactive. The idea is to let them come and go at their leisure.
Ok, so believing in the paranormal seems a pretty harmless side effect of being open. And being open is a good thing – right?
Next: Openness to Experience: Not an Equal Opportunity Employer/Some Applicants Need Not Apply
Antonova et al (2016) Schizotypy and mindfulness: magical thinking without suspiciousness characterizes mindfulness meditators. Schizophrenia Research: Cognition; 5, pp. 1-6. ISSN 2215-0013 http://www.schizrescognition.com/article/S2215-0013(16)30006-3/fulltext
Baer et al (2008). Construct validity of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire in meditating and nonmeditating samples. Assessment; 15, 329–342. doi:10.1177/1073191107313003
Raine A (1991). The SPQ: a scale for the assessment of schizotypal personality based on DSM-III-R criteria. Schizophrenia Bulletin; 17:555–564.
Smith, C. L., Johnson, J. L., & Hathaway, W. (2009). Personality Contributions to Belief in Paranormal Phenomena. Individual Differences Research, 7(2), 85-96.
Van den Hurk et al (2011). On the Relationship Between the Practice of Mindfulness Meditation and Personality—an Exploratory Analysis of the Mediating Role of Mindfulness Skills. Mindfulness, 2(3), 194–200. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-011-0060-7