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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Are Meditators Better Decision Makers?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 26th 2011

Imagine a friend of yours just won $100 and offered you a few dollars of it. What would you do? If you are like 75% of people you would immediately think it was unfair. How come he gets to take almost all of it and you only get a few dollars. However, the bottom line is no money or some money and the thought “This is unfair,” gets in the way. Not for meditators apparently.

In a recent study, When asked this question connected to neuroimaging machines (fMRI) the Buddhist meditators lit up different areas of their brains than the non-meditators.

The researchers said, “Controls draw upon areas involved in theory of mind, prospection, episodic memory, and fictive error. In contrast, meditators instead draw upon areas involved in interoception and attention to the present moment (Insula).

This reminds me of the study that was done with Zindel Segal and colleagues that hooked up people to the neuroimaging machines and had them watch sad scenes from movies. The control group rated higher on the depression scale, while the meditators scored lower.

The neuroscientific reason? Because the meditators engaged the experiential network of their bodies, while the control group engaged the narrative network that dealt with prospection, episodic memory, etc…

The bottom line: Sometimes the answers don’t lie in kicking around what’s fair and unfair and instead lie in connecting to the answer that lies in the here and now.

We all get lost in our daily judgments that come up before we know what hit us, telling us what is right and wrong, fair and unfair, or good and bad. Sometimes it’s good to investigate where these judgments came from. Our parents, culture, society, school, or friends? Do we even believe these judgments?

Neuroscientists are just scraping the tip of the iceberg in finding that we can actually change the shape of our brains through intentionally paying attention.

Perhaps we can fine tune our brains to be great decision makers too.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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