Combating Implicit Bias With Meditation

Tai Bendit-Shtull, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

We investigated the effects of a mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness meditation on implicit bias as well as the cognitive and emotional pathways through which these techniques act. We did this through a lab experiment in the Wharton Behavioral Lab in January 2017. We randomized 224 participants into three groups: a mindfulness meditation group, a loving-kindness meditation group, and a mind-wandering control group. After receiving one of the inductions, participants completed an Implicit Association Test measuring implicit bias against people with disabilities (IAT: Greenwald et al.,1988), as well as a set of survey questions. Although we were unable to demonstrate a reduction in overall implicit bias scores, we found a significant reduction in error percentage on the IAT for participants in the loving-kindness meditation group as compared to the control group. This effect was mediated by state compassion and positive state pleasantness, and is suggestive of reduced implicit bias.

 

Date Posted: 14 September 2017