Posted : 02.09.2015 | by AMRA

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People are less able to control themselves after an act of self-restraint. One attempt at self-restraint may deplete the emotional resources needed to engage in self-restraint again on a subsequent try. Yousainy et al. [Consciousness and Cognition] explored whether mindfulness might lessen this effect by helping people to reduce aggressive responding after a prior act of self-control.

One hundred and ten participants (mean age = 20 years) were shown a six-minute video while irrelevant words flashed on the screen. Half of the participants were instructed to ignore the words (the self-restraint condition), while the other half did not have to ignore them. Then half of the participants in each condition listened to a mindfulness meditation audiotape (the mindfulness condition), while the other half listened to an educational tape.

Afterward, participants engaged in a computerized contest against a simulated “opponent”. Each time participants lost, they received a noxious noise of predetermined loudness over their headphones. When the participants won, they could retaliate against the opponent by selecting a noxious sound of their own to deliver at different loudness intensities.

As a rule, the louder the opponent’s provocation, the louder the participant’s retaliation. Participants in the self-restraint condition chose significantly louder retaliations in response to provocations than did controls. Participants in the self-restraint condition who subsequently listened to the mindfulness tape delivered significantly lower intensity retaliations than their non-mindful self-restraint condition peers. These group differences existed for low and moderate noise intensities but disappeared for high intensity.

Findings from this study demonstrate that mindfulness induction can decrease some aggressive retaliation behavior following prior acts of self-restraint. Mindfulness may restore the emotional resources needed to maintain self-control, and thus may have an important role to play in anger management by helping people to mindfully respond to provocation rather than react with anger.

Reference:

Yusainy, C., & Lawrence, C. (2015). Brief mindfulness induction could reduce aggression after depletion. Consciousness and Cognition.

[Link to abstract]