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. 2018 Jan;13(1):36-61.
doi: 10.1177/1745691617709589. Epub 2017 Oct 10.

Mind the Hype: A Critical Evaluation and Prescriptive Agenda for Research on Mindfulness and Meditation

Free PMC article

Mind the Hype: A Critical Evaluation and Prescriptive Agenda for Research on Mindfulness and Meditation

Nicholas T Van Dam et al. Perspect Psychol Sci. .
Free PMC article


During the past two decades, mindfulness meditation has gone from being a fringe topic of scientific investigation to being an occasional replacement for psychotherapy, tool of corporate well-being, widely implemented educational practice, and "key to building more resilient soldiers." Yet the mindfulness movement and empirical evidence supporting it have not gone without criticism. Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed. Addressing such concerns, the present article discusses the difficulties of defining mindfulness, delineates the proper scope of research into mindfulness practices, and explicates crucial methodological issues for interpreting results from investigations of mindfulness. For doing so, the authors draw on their diverse areas of expertise to review the present state of mindfulness research, comprehensively summarizing what we do and do not know, while providing a prescriptive agenda for contemplative science, with a particular focus on assessment, mindfulness training, possible adverse effects, and intersection with brain imaging. Our goals are to inform interested scientists, the news media, and the public, to minimize harm, curb poor research practices, and staunch the flow of misinformation about the benefits, costs, and future prospects of mindfulness meditation.

Keywords: adverse effects; contemplative science; media hype; meditation; mindfulness; misinformation; neuroimaging; psychotherapy.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Scientific and news media articles on mindfulness and/or meditation by year from 1970 – 2015. Empirical scientific articles (black line) with the term “mindfulness” or “meditation” in the abstract, title, or keywords, published between 1970 and 2015 were searched using Scopus. Media pieces (dashed gray line) with the terms “mindfulness” or “meditation”, published in newspapers, using a similarity filter to minimize double-counting, published between 1970 and 2015 were searched using LexisNexis.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Articles in academic journals by content type. Scopus search limited to articles in academic journals only, published between 1970 and 2014, keywords “mindfulness” or “meditation” for overall search. Brain NOT Questionnaire and Questionnaire NOT Brain as additional key terms.

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