Toward a cognitive view of trait mindfulness: distinct cognitive skills predict its observing and nonreactivity facets

J Pers. 2012 Apr;80(2):255-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2011.00722.x. Epub 2012 Feb 18.


Dispositional variations in mindfulness and its facets have garnered considerable recent interest in the clinical and personality literatures. Theoretically, high mindful individuals have been characterized as more attuned to momentary sensations and perceptions and/or better able to execute behavior in a controlled manner, yet data of this relatively cognitive type have not been reported. In addition, perceptual attunement and executive control are distinct skills that may underlie, or at least correlate with, distinct facets of mindfulness. In 3 studies involving college students (N = 297), support for the latter idea was found. Individuals high in the observing (but not nonreactivity) facet of mindfulness demonstrated superior perceptual abilities in visual working memory (Study 1) and temporal order (Study 2) tasks. On the other hand, individuals high in the nonreactivity (but not observing) facet of mindfulness exhibited greater cognitive control flexibility (Study 3). Implications for understanding the cognitive basis of mindfulness facets are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Character*
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Self Concept*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Young Adult