The effects of mindfulness on executive processes and autobiographical memory specificity

Behav Res Ther. 2009 May;47(5):403-9. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2009.01.017. Epub 2009 Feb 3.


Previous studies have found that mindfulness training reduces overgeneral memories and increases autobiographical memory specificity (e.g., [Williams, J. M. G., Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., & Soulsby, J. (2000). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy reduces overgeneral autobiographical memory in formerly depressed patients. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 150-155]). However, little work has investigated the mechanisms underlying this effect. The present study explored the role of executive processes as a mediator of MBCT effects in an unselected sample. An autobiographical memory task, a cognitive inhibition task, a motor inhibition task, a cognitive flexibility task and a motor flexibility task were administered before and after intervention. Compared to matched controls, MBCT participants showed increased autobiographical memory specificity, decreased overgenerality, and improved cognitive flexibility capacity and capacity to inhibit cognitive prepotent responses. Mediational analyses indicated that changes in cognitive flexibility partially mediate the impact of MBCT on overgeneral memories. Results are discussed in terms of Conway's [2005. Memory and the self. Journal of Memory and Language, 53, 594-628] autobiographical memory model.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Meditation
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests