Empirical Studies of Contemplative Practices

Diane Grimes, Ph.D.
Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies, Syracuse, NY

Qiu Wang, Ph.D.
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY

Hong Lin, Ph.D.
University of Houston-Downtown, Houston, Texas

Series: Health Psychology Research Focus
BISAC: PSY042000



Volume 10

Issue 1

Volume 2

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Special issue: Resilience in breaking the cycle of children’s environmental health disparities
Edited by I Leslie Rubin, Robert J Geller, Abby Mutic, Benjamin A Gitterman, Nathan Mutic, Wayne Garfinkel, Claire D Coles, Kurt Martinuzzi, and Joav Merrick


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This book is a first attempt to associate the interpretation of contemplative approaches to scientific studies. Drawing on expertise from a range of disciplines, including psychology, applied statistics, health sciences, neuroscience, communication, computer science, and information technology, we examine the critical processes of contemplative approaches and aim to guide the scientific research of contemplative practices. The book includes pedagogical and experimental aspects of studies such as research design, measurement, program assessment, statistical modeling, data mining, technology integration, and evaluation.

It aims to serve as a forum to inspire empirical studies of contemplative practices that address the complexity and variety of such practice in a thoughtful way. It includes compiled interpretation of bodily manifestations of contemplative practices, psychological analysis of contemplative practices, and systematic studies of the effect of contemplative practices through data analysis. Together, the chapters of this book offer first steps along a path to deeper understanding of contemplative practices.

Empirical Studies of Contemplative Practices can serve as a reference book to scholars, researchers, and graduate students across fields of natural and social science. Specifically, this book may be of interest in scholarly arenas such as life sciences, psychology, communication, healthcare, education, and data science. We also hope to draw attention from meditation practitioners as well as those who are interested in religious and philosophical studies.

We hope that the systematic study of contemplative approaches can make an impact on the larger population in their daily lives.



Chapter 1. Contemplative Science: Are We Measuring the Immeasurable?
(B. Grace Bullock, PhD, International Science & Education Alliance and Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR, US)

Chapter 2. Reconceptualizing the Measurement of Mindfulness
(Joshua C. Felver, PhD, Adam J. Clawson, Emily C. Helminen, Emily L. Koelmel, Melissa L. Morton and Samantha E. Sinegar, Psychology Department, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, US)

Chapter 3. Research Design and Statistical Modeling in Contemplative Meditation Studies
(Qiu Wang, PhD and Jiaming Cheng, Department of Higher Education, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, US, and others)

Chapter 4. Learning to Model a Meditation Brain State Using EEG Data
(Hong Lin, PhD, Courtney Watts, Yuezhe Li, PhD, Christopher Early, Alexander Chan and Sishir Subedi, Department of Computer Science and Engineering Technology, University of Houston-Downtown, Houston, TX, US, and others)

Chapter 5. Measuring the Neural Correlates of Mindfulness with Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy
(Leanne M. Hirshfield, PhD, Dessa Bergen-Cico, PhD, Mark Costa, PhD, Robert J.K. Jacob, Sam Hincks and Matthew Russell, Department of Mass Communication, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, US, and others)

Chapter 6. Mindfulness and Contemplative Practices for Diverse Cultures
(Dessa Bergen-Cico, PhD and Jeffrey Proulx, PhD, Department of Public Health, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, US, and others)

Chapter 7. The Promise of Mindfulness as a Proposed Intervention to Alleviate the Delimiting Effects of Math Anxiety
(Nicole L. Fonger, PhD and Kien Lim, PhD, Department of Mathematics, Department of Teaching and Leadership, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, US, and others)

Chapter 8. Trait Mindfulness and Problematic Smartphone Use
(Bradford Owen, PhD, Brian Heisterkamp, PhD, Annabell Halfmann and Peter Vorderer, PhD, Department of Communication Studies, California State University, San Bernardino, CA, US, and others)

Chapter 9. Mindfulness Training in the Communication Classroom: Effects on Communication Competence, Emotion Regulation, and Emotional Intelligence
(Valerie Manusov, PhD, and Daniel C. Huston, Department of Communication, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, US, and others)

Chapter 10. An Assessment Framework for Contemplative Practice in Higher Education
(Diane S. Grimes, PhD, and Rachel A. Razza, PhD, Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, US, and others)


“After decades of teaching contemplative practices, I am deeply familiar with the wide range of benefits that practice can have in people’s lives. Contemplative practice is an intensely subjective experience, however -- how do we describe the nature of mindfulness and measure its effects objectively? There are significant challenges for scientists and others in mapping this territory (the lack of a common definition of mindfulness is just one), but we have come a long way in the last 40 years or so. This multidisciplinary collection of work does an excellent job of sharing the progress to date and pointing towards next steps.” - Sharon Salzberg, author of Loving kindness and Real Love

"If you are interested in the potentialities of integrating contemplative approaches into higher education but unsure about their effects, universality and implementation, then this important volume is for you. Filled with subtle yet eminently practical wisdom and analysis, this collection takes important strides in clarifying how we can use and, most importantly, evaluate contemplative methods throughout higher education." - Daniel Barbezat, Ward H. Patton Professor of Economics, Amherst College

"This outstanding set of chapters joins the work of cutting edge scientists involved in pushing the field of contemplative science to its deeper and more critical phase. Good science is achieved by taking stock not merely of what we study but also of how we do research and how we ground our claims. These contributions are timely in this respect, as they respond to many of the critical questions raised in current discourse in regards to measuring the outcomes as well as the processes of contemplative practices. Spanning diverse disciplines and fields including psychology, neuroscience, communication and technology among others, this volume both presents substantial methodological groundings for the further development of this field, and offers illuminating case-studies that demonstrate the importance of incorporating contemplative practices in education. This is a much-needed addition to this exciting and exponentially developing field that demonstrates the incredible variety and potential of contemplative practices for human development." - Oren Ergas (PhD), Beit Berl College, Israel

"If mindfulness and other contemplative practices are to be embedded into key areas of society, including education, healthcare and business, then researchers and developers must deeply consider the insights and recommendations put forth in Empirical Studies of Contemplative Practices. This timely collection provides a roadmap of novel strategies to structure, measure and analyze the myriad of introspective approaches in this burgeoning field, as well as case-studies to illustrate them. The authors' emphasis on maintaining ecologically valid environments and tools for measurement helps to guide researchers so they can avoid the classic reductionist trap, ensuring outcomes that are actionable, repeatable and sustainable in real-world applications, outside of the research lab. Insights gleaned from this book will help to expand our understanding of how contemplative practices can bolster human flourishing." - Laura Bakosh, Ph.D., Co-Founder Inner Explorer, Inc.

"This important book edited by Diane Grimes, Qiu Wang, and Hong Lin is must reading for any serious scholar, teacher, or practitioner of contemplative practice. The effort of the authors to bring a rigorous lens to the definitions, practices and scientific study of this fascinating area of human development will no doubt prove to be a watershed event as the scientific community grapples with getting more mastery in this field." - Patton (aka Dinabandhu) Sarley, Past CEO of Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health; past president of the Omega Institute; founding member of the 1440 Multiversity

"As the founding director of Syracuse University’s Contemplative Collaborative, I am pleased to endorse this groundbreaking book. It represents some of the results of our collaboration, the scholarly aspect of which has extended far beyond the Syracuse University campus. Assessing what we do, difficult as it may seem, will provide the information needed to improve our ability to truly be of use, whether bringing contemplative practices into classrooms and student programming, or other offerings to members of our communities, near and far." - Reverend Bonnie Shoultz, Founding Director of Syracuse University’s Contemplative Collaborative, and Buddhist chaplain at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel

"In the simplest expression of his dispensation, the Buddha is said to have declared that he teaches only suffering and the end of suffering. Historically, Buddhism has spread around the globe by adapting to the cultures and sensibilities of those it encounters while maintaining this core teaching. As these contemplative practices continue to root in the West, studies like this will prove to be important as Eastern spiritual traditions meet Western scientific traditions. With the continued deepening of this convergence, studies such as this will continue to explore not only positive ancillary aspects of meditation like stress reduction, but also bring modern understandings to the nature of the goal itself—suffering, its cause, the possibility of its end, and the way to that end." - Gary Steinberg, founder of Stone Mountain Meditation

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