Stepping out of history: mindfulness improves insight problem solving

Conscious Cogn. 2012 Jun;21(2):1031-6. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2012.02.014. Epub 2012 Apr 6.


Insight problem solving is hindered by automated verbal-conceptual processes. Because mindfulness meditation training aims at "nonconceptual awareness" which involves a reduced influence of habitual verbal-conceptual processes on the interpretation of ongoing experience, mindfulness may facilitate insight problem solving. This hypothesis was examined across two studies (total N=157). Participants in both studies completed a measure of trait mindfulness and a series of insight and noninsight problems. Further, participants in Study 2 completed measures of positive affect and a mindfulness or control training. The results indicated that (a) trait mindfulness predicts better insight but not noninsight problem solving (both studies), (b) this relation is maintained when controlling for positive affect (Study 2), (c) mindfulness training improves insight but not noninsight problem solving (Study 2) and (d) this improvement is partially mediated by state mindfulness (Study 2). These findings are the first to document a direct relation between mindfulness and creativity.

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Awareness
  • Comprehension
  • Creativity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Problem Solving*