Towards an Objective Measure of Mindfulness: Replicating and Extending the Features of the Breath-Counting Task

Mindfulness (N Y). 2018;9(5):1402-1410. doi: 10.1007/s12671-017-0880-1. Epub 2018 Jan 22.


Despite calls for objective measures of mindfulness to be adopted in the field, such practices have not yet become established. Recently, a breath-counting task (BCT) was proposed as a reliable and valid candidate for such an instrument. In this study, we show that the psychometric properties of the BCT are reproducible in a sample of 127 Asian undergraduates. Specifically, accuracy on the BCT was associated with everyday lapses and sustained attention, and weakly associated with subjectively measured mindfulness. BCT metrics also showed good test-retest reliability. Extending the use of the paradigm, we further found that two different types of task errors-miscounts and resets-were correlated with different aspects of cognition. Miscounts, or errors made without awareness, were associated with attentional lapses, whereas resets, or self-caught errors, were associated with mind-wandering. The BCT may be a suitable candidate for the standardized measurement of mindfulness that could be used in addition to mindfulness questionnaires.

Keywords: Attentional lapses; Breath counting; Mind-wandering; Objective measurement; Trait mindfulness.