When making smart decisions, often one must consider both positive and negative information which can be difficult when the latter triggers worry and anger. For instance, often people don’t want to know if they failed a test, about a bad medical report, or a close friend’s betrayal because of the emotions that they bring forth. However, such avoidance can add new layers to the issue at hand.
A recent study by Elliott Ash, Professor of Law, Economics, and Data Science at ETH Zurich, studied this avoidance of negative information or cognitive bias to understand how it can be reduced to help people make better decisions. The findings showed that regular mindful meditation can reduce this tendency, according to a press statement by ETH Zurich.
According to the researchers, mindfulness meditation is the practice of sitting still with eyes closed, observing – but not responding to – breathing, physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions, according to the statement. Previous research has shed light on how meditation has a positive effect on mind and body. Studies have shown that 15 minutes of meditation a day can help reduce stress and increase the ability to concentrate.
This study, involving 261 participants, showed that it also helps people cope with negative information. “The study participants who meditated every day for two weeks were better equipped to simply observe their negative emotions and accept them calmly,” Ash said in the statement.
The results showed that people who practised mindfulness meditation every day for two weeks were less likely to avoid negative information. These findings demonstrated how mindfulness meditation can increase people’s resilience to uncomfortable emotions, enabling them to process negative information more objectively. “Someone who copes well with negative emotions will also want to know what could go wrong as a result of a particular decision,” Ash explained in the statement.
Hence, meditation training could help people make better decisions. As people who regularly meditate are more likely to consult information to which they might react negatively, they tend to be more comprehensively informed.
These findings complement the results of a 2015 study, Calm and smart? A selective review of meditation effects on decision-making – published in Frontiers in Psychology – which suggested that meditation interventions may be effective in promoting good decision-making.