Visual sensitivity and mindfulness meditation

Percept Mot Skills. 1984 Jun;58(3):775-84. doi: 10.2466/pms.1984.58.3.775.


Practitioners of the mindfulness form of Buddhist meditation were tested for visual sensitivity before and immediately after a 3-mo. retreat during which they practiced mindfulness meditation for 16 hr. each day. A control group composed of the staff at the retreat center was similarly tested. Visual sensitivity was defined in two ways: by a detection threshold based on the duration of simple light flashes and a discrimination threshold based on the interval between successive simple light flashes. All light flashes were presented tachistoscopically and were of fixed luminance. After the retreat, practitioners could detect shorter single-light flashes and required a shorter interval to differentiate between successive flashes correctly. The control group did not change on either measure. Phenomenological reports indicate that mindfulness practice enables practitioners to become aware of some of the usually preattentive processes involved in visual detection. The results support the statements found in Buddhist texts on meditation concerning the changes in perception encountered during the practice of mindfulness.

MeSH terms

  • Buddhism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Practice, Psychological
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Visual Perception*