Attentional biases towards affective stimuli reflect an individual balance of appetitive and aversive motivational systems. Vigilance in relation to threatening information reflects emotional imbalance, associated with affective and somatic problems. It is known that meditation practice significantly improves control of attention, which is considered to be a tool for adaptive emotional regulation. In this regard, the main aim of the present study was to evaluate the influence of meditation on attentional bias towards neutral and emotional facial expressions. Eyes were tracked while 21 healthy controls and 23 experienced meditators (all males) viewed displays consisting of four facial expressions (neutral, angry, fearful and happy) for 10 s. Measures of biases in initial orienting and maintenance of attention were assessed. No effects were found for initial orienting biases. Meditators spent significantly less time viewing angry and fearful faces than control subjects. Furthermore, meditators selectively attended to happy faces whereas control subjects showed attentional biases towards both angry and happy faces. In sum we can conclude that long-term meditation practice adaptively affects attentional biases towards motivationally significant stimuli and that these biases reflect positive mood and predominance of appetitive motivation.
Keywords: Attentional bias; Emotion; Eye tracking; Faces; Meditation.