Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: July 2015

4 - Methods of mindfulness: how mindfulness is studied in the workplace

from Part I - Foundations



Interest in mindfulness in the workplace has been on the rise. A recent surge of research has built a compelling case for mindfulness and its potential benefits continue to attract the attention of organizational scholars. To name but a few, in the past years we have seen research linking mindfulness to work-family balance (Allen and Kiburz 2012), work engagement (Leroy, Anseel, Dimitrova, and Sels 2013), negotiation outcomes (Reb and Narayanan 2014), job burnout (Roche and Haar 2013), resilience to bias (Hafenbrack, Kinias, and Barsade 2013), working memory (Mrazek et al. 2013) and performance (Dane and Brummel 2014; Reb, Narayanan, and Chaturvedi 2014). While mindfulness was initially studied as a method of treating ailing clinical populations (Kabat-Zinn 1990), today its application has expanded to executive boardrooms, elementary school classrooms, professional sports, and military Special Forces. The rapid expansion of mindfulness studies in non-clinical populations, particularly work environments, is exciting for practitioners but also raises a series of methodological concerns. It is to this end that we focus this chapter: a review and analysis of the study of mindfulness in the workplace. We hope this chapter will offer a roadmap to scholars new to mindfulness by summarizing prevailing methods and their areas for improvement. We also aim to offer innovative insights for more established researchers by reflecting on directions for further research.

This chapter discusses the study of workplace mindfulness in three sections. First, we review how researchers have studied the various conceptualizations of mindfulness and the major issues concerning the construct of mindfulness altogether. Clearly operationalizing mindfulness is an important precursor to any other step in the research process for it stands to help define the scope and boundaries of the topic under investigation. In the second section, we review the most commonly used methods in mindfulness research such as experiments, surveys, and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs).

Allen, T. D. and Kiburz, K. M. (2012). Trait mindfulness and work-family balance among working parents: the mediating effects of vitality and sleep quality. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80(2), 372–9.
Arch, J. J. and Craske, M. G. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness: Emotion regulations following a focused breathing induction. Behavior Research and Therapy, 44, 1849–58.
Atkins, P. W. B. and Parker, S. K. (2012). Understanding individual compassion in organizations: the role of appraisals and psychological flexibility. Academy of Management Review, 37(4), 524–46.
Bachrach, D. G., Bendoly, E., and Podsakoff, P. G. (2001). Attributions of the “Causes” of Group Performance as an Alternative Explanation of the Relationship Between Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Organizational Performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 1285–93.
Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: a conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125–43.
Baer, R. A. (2011). Measuring mindfulness. Contemporary Buddhism, 12, 241–61.
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., and Allen, K. B. (2004). Assessment of mindfulness by self-report: the Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills. Assessment, 11, 191–206.
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., and Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13, 27–45.
Bennett, C. M., Baird, A. A., Miller, M. B., and Wolford, G. L. (2009). Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: an argument for multiple comparisons correction. Neuroimage, 47, S125.
Bergomi, C., Tschacher, W., and Kupper, Z. (2013a). Measuring mindfulness: first steps towards the development of a comprehensive mindfulness scale. Mindfulness, 4, 18–32.
Bergomi, C., Tschacher, W., and Kupper, Z. (2013b). The assessment of mindfulness with self-report measures: existing scales and open issues. Mindfulness, 4, 191–202.
Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., … Devins, G. (2004). Mindfulness: a proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(3), 230–41.
Bodner, T. E. and Langer, E. J. (2001). Individual differences in mindfulness: The Mindfulness/Mindlessness Scale. Poster presented at the 13th annual American Psychological Society Conference, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Boruch, R. F., Wesiburd, D., Turner, H. M., Karpyn, A., and Littell, J. (2004). Randomized controlled trials for evaluation and planning. In Bickman, L. and Rog, D. (eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Applied Social Research. 2nd edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 147–81.
Brown, K. W. and Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological wellbeing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822–48.
Buchheld, N., Grossman, P., and Walach, H. (2001). Measuring mindfulness in insight meditation (Vipassana) and meditation-based psycho-therapy: the development of the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI). Journal for Meditation and Meditation Research, 1, 11–34.
Cahn, B. R. and Polich, J. (2006). Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies. Psychological bulletin, 132(2), 180.
Campbell, Donald T. III. (1975). “Degrees of Freedom” and the case study. Comparative political studies, 8(2), 178–93.
Cardaciotto, L., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., Moitra, E., and Farrow, V. (2008). The assessment of present-moment awareness and acceptance: the Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale. Assessment, 15(2), 204.
Carmody, J. and Baer, R. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of Behavior Medicine, 2, 23–33.
Carmody, J., and Baer, R. A. (2009). How long does a mindfulness-based stress reduction program need to be? A review of class contact hours and effect sizes for psychological distress. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(6), 627–38.
Chadwick, P., Hember, M., Symes, J., Peters, E., Kuipers, E., and Dagnan, D. (2008). Responding mindfully to unpleasant thoughts and images: reliability and validity of the Southampton mindfulness questionnaire (SMQ). British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 47, 451–5.
Chambers, R., Gullone, E., and Allen, N. B. (2009). Mindful emotion regulation: an integrative review. Clinical Psychology Reviews, 29, 560–72.
Chan, D. (1998). Functional relations among constructs in the same content domain at different levels of analysis: a typology of composition models. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(2), 234–46.
Chan, D. and Woollacott, M. (2007). Effects of level of meditation experience on attentional focus: is the efficiency of executive or orientation networks improved?The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13(6), 651–8.
Chen, G., Matthieu, J. E., and Bliese, P. D. (2005). A framework for conducting multi-level construct validation. Research in Multi Level Issues, 3, 273–303.
Cheyne, J. A., Carriere, J. S. A., and Smilek, D. (2006). Absent-mindedness: lapses of conscious awareness and everyday cognitive failures. Consciousness and Cognition, 15, 578–92.
Chiesa, A. (2013). The difficulty of defining mindfulness: current thought and critical issues. Mindfulness, 4(3), 255–68.
Chiesa, A. and Malinowski, P. (2011). Mindfulness-based approaches: are they all the same?Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(4), 404–24.
Chiesa, A. and Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5), 593–600.
Chiesa, A. and Serretti, A. (2011). Mindfulness based cognitive therapy for psychiatric disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 187(3), 441–53.
Collins, S. E., Chwala, N., Hsu, S. H., Grow, J., Otto, J. M., and Marlatt, G. A. (2009). Language-based measures of mindfulness: initial validity and clinical utility. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 23, 743–9.
Cronbach, L. J. and Meehl, P. E. (1955). Construct validity in psychological tests. Psychological Bulletin, 52(4), 281.
Cunningham, W. A., Preacher, K. J., and Banaji, M. R. (2001). Implicit attitude measures: consistency, stability, and convergent validity. Psychological Science, 12(2), 163–70.
Dane, E. (2011). Paying attention to mindfulness and its effects on task performance in the workplace. Journal of Management, 37(4), 997–1018.
Dane, E. and Brummel, B. J. (2014). Examining workplace mindfulness and its relations to job performance and turnover intention. Human Relations, 67(1), 105–28.
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkrantz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., … Sheridan, F. S. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–70.
Davis, K. M., Lau, M. A., and Cairns, D. R. (2009). Development and preliminary validation of a trait version of the Toronto Mindfulness Scale. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(3), 185–97.
De Vibe, M., Bjorndal, A., Tipton, E., Hammerstrom, K., and Kowalski, K. (2012). Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for improving health, quality of life, and social functioning in adults. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 8(3), 1–128.
Eberth, J. and Sedlmeier, P. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation: a meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 3, 174–89.
Feldman, G., Hayes, A., Kumar, S., Greeson, J., and Laurenceau, J. P. (2007). Mindfulness and emotion regulation: the development and initial validation of the cognitive and affective mindfulness scale–revised (CAMS-R), Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 29,177–90.
Fiske, S. T. (1982). Schema-triggered affect: applications to social perception. In Clark, M. S. and Fiske, S. T. (eds.), Affect and Cognition: 17th Annual Carnegie Mellon Symposium on Cognition. Hillsdale, MI: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 55–78.
Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., and Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1045–62.
Frewen, P. A., Unholzer, F., Logie-Hagan, K. R. J., and MacKinley, J. D. (2014). Meditation Breath Attention Scores (MBAS): test-retest reliability and sensitivity to repeated practice. Mindfulness, 5, 161–9.
Grossman, P. (2008). On measuring mindfulness in psychosomatic and psychological research. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64, 405–8.
Grossman, P. (2011). Defining mindfulness by how poorly I think I pay attention during every-day awareness and other intractable problems for psychology's (re)invention of mindfulness: comment on Brown et al. (2011). Psychological Assessment, 23(4), 1034–40.
Grossman, P. and Van Dam, N. T. (2011). Mindfulness, by any other name ...: trials and tribulations of sati in western psychology and science. Contemporary Buddhism, 12(1), 219–39.
Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., and Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57(1), 35–43.
Hafenbrack, A., Kinias, Z, and Barsade, S. G. (2013). Debiasing the mind through meditation: mindfulness and the sunk cost bias. Psychological Science, 25 (2), 369–76.
Hayes, S. C.Strosahl, K. D., and Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: an experiential approach to behavior change. New York: Guilford Press.
Hensler, P., Lingham, T., and Perelli, S. (2013). Learning from disruptive market events: a study of financial advisor behavior. The International Journal of Management and Business, 4(1), 12–27.
Hülsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J. E. M., Feinholdt, A., and Lang, J. W. B. (2012). Benefits of mindfulness at work: on the role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(2), 310–25.
Jarvis, C. B., MacKenzie, S. B., and Podsakoff, P. M. (2003). A critical review of construct indicators and measurement model misspecification in marketing and consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research, 30(2), 199–218.
Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. A., Kiyonaga, A., Wong, L., and Gelfand, L. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion, 10, 54–64.
Josefsson, T., Lindwall, M., and Broberg, A. G. (2014). The effects of a short-term mindfulness based intervention on self-reported mindfulness, decentering, executive attention, psychological health, and coping style: examining unique mindfulness effects and mediators. Mindfulness, 5, 18–35.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your mind to face stress, pain and illness. New York: Dell Publishing.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion.
Kiken, L. and Shook, N. (2011). Looking up: mindfulness increases positive judgments and reduces negativity bias. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 425–31.
Koole, S. L., Govorun, O., Cheng, C. M., and Gallucci, M. (2009). Pulling yourself together: meditation promotes congruence between implicit and explicit self- esteem. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1220–6.
Kraus, S. and Sears, S. (2009). Measuring the immeasurables: Development and initial validation of the self-other four immeasurables (SOFI) scale based on Buddhist teachings on loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Social Indicators Research, 92(1), 169–81.
Kudesia, R. S. and Nyima, T. (in press). Mindfulness contextualized: a review and integration of Buddhist and neuropsychological approaches to cognition. Mindfulness.
Langer, E. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Langer, E. J. and Moldoveanu, M. (2000). The construct of mindfulness. Journal of Social Issues, 56(1), 1–9.
Lau, M. A., Bishop, S. R., Segal, Z. V., Buis, T., Anderson, N. D., Carlson, L., Devins, G. (2006). The Toronto mindfulness scale: development and validation. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 1445–68.
Lawshe, C. H. (1975). A quantitative approach to content validity. Personnel Psychology, 28, 563–75. doi:10.1177/0748175612440286.
Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., … Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport, 16, 1893–7.
Leavitt, K., Fong, C. T., and Greenwald, A. G. (2011). Asking about well-being gets you half an answer: intra-individual processes of implicit and explicit job attitudes. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32, 672–87.
Leroy, H, Anseel, F., Dimitrova, N., and Sels, L. (2013). Mindfulness, authentic functioning, and work engagement: a growth modeling approach. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 82(3), 238–47.
Levinthal, D. and Rerup, C. (2006). Crossing an apparent chasm: bridging mindful and less-mindful perspectives on organizational learning. Organization Science, 17(4), 502–13.
Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.
Luders, E., Toga, A. W., Lepore, N., and Gaser, C. (2009). The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. Neuroimage, 45, 672–8.
Lutz, A., Dunne, J. D., and Davidson, R. J. (2007). Meditation and the neuroscience of consciousness. In Zelazo, P., Moscovitch, M., and Thompson, E. (eds.), Cambridge handbook of consciousness. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 480–551.
Lutz, A., Slagter, H. A., Dunne, J. D., and Davidson, R. J. (2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Science, 12(4), 163–9.
Lykins, E. L. B., Baer, R. A., and Gottlob, L. R. (2012). Performance-based tests of attention and memory in long-term mindfulness meditators and demographically matched non-meditators. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36, 103–14.
MacCoon, D. G., Imel, Z. E., Rosenkranz, M. A., Sheftel, J. G, … and Lutz, A. (2012). The validation of an active control intervention for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Behavior Research and Therapy, 50(1), 3–12.
MacKillop, J. and Anderson, E. J. (2007). Further psychometric validation of the mindful attention and awareness scale. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 29, 289–93.
Manocha, R., Black, D., Sarris, J., and Stough, C. (2011). A randomized, controlled trial of meditation for work stress, anxiety and depressed mood in full-time workers. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. eCAM 2011, 2011:960583. Epub 2011 Jun7.
Mark, M. M. and Reichardt, C. S. (2004). Quasi-experimentation. In Bickman, L. and Rog, D. (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Applied Social Research. 2nd edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc, pp. 182–213.
Masicampo, E. J. and Baumeister, R. F. (2007). Relating mindfulness and self-regulatory processes. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 255–8.
Menon, V. and Uddin, L. Q. (2010). Saliency, switching, attention and control: a network model of insula function. Brain Structure and Function, 214(5–6), 655–67.
Mikulas, W. L. (2011). Mindfulness: significant common confusions. Mindfulness, 2, 1–7. DOI 10.1007/s12671-010-0036-z.
Mosier, C. I. (1947). A critical examination of the concepts of face validity. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 7(2), 191–205.
Mrazek, M. D., Franklin, M. S., Phillips, D. T., Baird, B., and Schooler, J. W. (2013). Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering. Psychological Science, 24, 776–81.
Nyklicek, I. and Kuijpers, K. F. (2008). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention on psychological well-being and quality of life: is increased mindfulness indeed the mechanism?Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 35(3), 331–40.
Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J. Y., and Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: a critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903.
Rapgay, L. and Bystrisky, A. (2009). Classical mindfulness: an introduction to its theory and practice for clinical application. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1172, 148–62.
Reb, J. and Narayanan, J. (2014). The influence of mindful attention on value claiming in distributive negotiations: evidence from four laboratory experiments. Mindfulness 5(6), 756–66.
Reb, J., Narayanan, J., and Chaturvedi, S. (2014). Leading mindfully: two studies on the influence of supervisor trait mindfulness on employee well-being and performance. Mindfulness, 5(1), 36–45.
Reb, J., Narayanan, J., and Ho, Z. W. (2015). Mindfulness at work: Antecedents and consequences of employee awareness and absent-mindedness. Mindfulness, 6(1), 111–22.
Roche, M. and Haar, M. J. (2013). Leaders life aspirations and job burnout: a self-determination theory approach. Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 34(6), 515–31.
Ruedy, N. and Schweitzer, M. (2010). In the moment: the effect of mindfulness on ethical decision making. Journal of Business Ethics, 95, 73–87.
Sauer, S., Walach, H., Schmidt, S., Hinterberger, T., Lynch, S., Büssing, A., and Kohls, N. (2013). Assessment of mindfulness: review on state of the art. Mindfulness, 4, 3–17.
Sauer-Zavala, S. E., Walsh, E. C., Eisenlohr-Moul, T. A., and Lykins, E. L. B. (2013). Comparing mindfulness-based intervention strategies: differential effects of sitting meditation, body scan, and mindful yoga. Mindfulness, 4, 383–8.
Shapiro, S. L., Katz, J., Wiley, S. D., Capuano, T., and Baker, D. M. (2004). The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on nurse stress and burnout. Holistic Nursing Practice, 18(6), 302–8.
Shapiro, S. L., Oman, D., Thoresen, C. E., Plante, T. G., and Flinders, T. (2008). Cultivating mindfulness: effects on well-being. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64, 840–62.
Smallwood, J., McSpadden, M., and Schooler, J. W. (2007). The lights are on but no one's home: meta-awareness and the decoupling of attention when the mind wanders. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 14, 527–33.
Solloway, S. G. and Fisher, W. P. (2007). Mindfulness practice: a Rasch variable construct innovation. Journal of Applied Measurement, 8(4), 359–72.
Takahashi, T., Murata, T., Hamada, T., Omori, M., Kosaka, H., Kikuchi, M., … Wadaa, Y. (2005). Changes in EEG and autonomic nervous activity during meditation and their association with personality traits. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 55(2), 199–207.
Tang, Y. Y. (2009). Exploring the brain, optimizing the life. Beijing: Science Press.
Tang, Y. Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., … Posner, M. I (2007). Short term meditation training improves attention and self regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(43), 17152–6.
Tanner, M. A., Travis, F., Gaylord-King, C., Haaga, D. A., Grosswald, S., and Schneider, R. H. (2009). The effects of the transcendental meditation program on mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 574–89.
Thompson, B. L. and Waltz, J. (2007). Everyday mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. Overlapping constructs or not?Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 1875–85.
Travis, F. and Shear, J. (2010). Focused attention, open monitoring and automatic self-transcending: categories to organize meditations from Vedic, Buddhist and Chinese traditions. Cognition and Consciousness, 19(4), 1110–18.
Uhlmann, E. L., Poehlman, T. A., and Nosek, B. A. (2012). Automatic associations: personal attitudes or cultural knowledge? In Hanson, J. (ed.), Ideology, Psychology, and Law. Oxford University Press, pp. 228–60.
Vago, D. R. and Silbersweig, D. A. (2012). Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence (S-ART): a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6(296), 1–30.
Valentine, E. R. and Sweet, P. L. (1999). Meditation and attention: a comparison of the effects of concentrative and mindfulness meditation on sustained attention, Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 2(1), 59–70.
Van Dam, N. T., Earleywine, M., and Borders, A. (2010). Measuring mindfulness? An item response theory analysis of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 805–10.
Van Dam, N. T., Earleywine, M., and Danoff-Burg, S. (2009). Differential item function across meditators and non-meditators on the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 516–21.
Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., and Rosch, E. (1991). The embodied mind: cognitive science and human experience.Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Walach, H., Nord, E., Zier, C., Dietz-Waschkowski, B., Kersig, S., Schubach, H. (2007). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a method for personnel development: a pilot evaluation. International Journal of Stress Management, 14, 188–98.
Wallace, B. A. (2006). The attention revolution: unlocking the power of the focused mind. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications Inc.
Weick, K. E. and Sutcliffe, K. (2006). Mindfulness and the quality of organizational attention. Organization Science, 17(4), 514–24.
Weick, K. E., Sutcliffe, K. M., and Obstfeld, D. (1999). Organizing for high reliability: processes of collective mindfulness. Research in Organizational Behavior, 21, 81–123.