A new study finds that many of the benefits related to meditating turn out to be false. It was found that it does not make a person calmer or more compassionate, and just as aggressive or prejudiced if this was in their nature to begin with.
Dr Miguel Farias, co-author, from Coventry University, said: "All world religions promise the world would change for the better if only people were to follow its rules and practices. The popularization of meditation techniques in a secular format is offering the hope of a better self and a better world to many".
"In the early 1970s, Transcendental Meditation conveyed this message openly, announcing that the rising number of individuals practising this technique would lead to world peace in the short term. Psychologists using mindfulness or other Buddhism-derived meditation techniques are now advancing similar ideas about the prosocial effects of meditation. The popularization of meditation techniques, like mindfulness, despite being taught without religious beliefs, still seem to offer the hope of a better self and a better world to many".
The team of researchers reviewed more than 20 studies that investigated the effect of various types of meditation to make the conclusion.
They involved mindfulness - paying more attention to the present moment, and loving-kindness - imagining objects such as cute animals.
It only included randomized controlled studies, where meditators were compared to other individuals that did not meditate.
Initial analysis, published in the journal Scientific Reports, indicated that meditation, whether it was three-minute classes or three-month long getaways at secluded retreats did have an overall positive impact.
It made people feel moderately more compassionate or empathetic, compared to if they had done no other new emotionally-engaging activity.
However, a further analysis revealed that meditation didn't reduce aggression or prejudice or improving how socially-connected someone was.
The most unexpected result of this study, though, was that the more positive results found for compassion had important methodological flaws.
Compassion levels in some studies only increased if the meditation teacher was also an author of the published report.
Overall, the results suggested improvements reported by psychologists in previous studies may be the result of methodological weaknesses and biases.
Dr Farias added, "Despite the high hopes of practitioners and past studies, our research found that methodological shortcomings greatly influenced the results we found. Most of the initial positive results disappeared when the meditation groups were compared to other groups that engaged in tasks unrelated to meditation".
"We also found that the beneficial effect of meditation on compassion disappeared if the meditation teacher was an author in the studies. This reveals that the researchers might have unintentionally biased their results. None of this, of course, invalidates Buddhism or other religions' claims about the moral value and eventually life changing potential of its beliefs and practices. But our research findings are a far cry from many popular claims made by meditators and some psychologists".
"To understand the true impact of meditation on people's feelings and behavior further we first need to address the methodological weaknesses we uncovered - starting with the high expectations researchers might have about the power of meditation".
In essence the findings of these prior studies were skewed in order to represent the outcome that was sought, not the actual effect or lack thereof. Studies of these types regardless of the subject matter being tested prove to be worthless and misleading to those who review the articles, based on these studies having been rigorously and honestly written by those who were involved in the methodology. Bottom line, even scientists will lie to justify their own personal beliefs on a subject.
Source - DailyMail
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