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Mindfulness and equanimity moderate approach/avoidance motor responses




International audience A person’s tendency to approach pleasant stimuli and to avoid unpleasant stimuli reflects a basic psychological phenomenon. The present research aimed to investigate the extent to which mindfulness practices and trait equanimity can attenuate this motivational process. In two studies, participants were asked to perform an Approach/Avoidance Task (AAT). In Study 1 (N = 84), prior to completing the AAT, participants were randomly assigned to one of two guided mindfulness-based meditation conditions (breathing or body-scan) or to an active control condition. In Study 2 (N = 71), which controlled for mindfulness practice, motor responses to the AAT were compared by level of equanimity of the participants (low vs. high). The results revealed that breathing meditation practice and trait equanimity significantly moderated participants’ motor responses to the AAT, and that the body-scan meditation did not moderate these responses. Bayesian analyses showed that participants in the breathing meditation group (Study 1) and those with higher equanimity (Study 2) showed a reduction of bias in their motor responses to the AAT. These results suggest that meditation practice and trait equanimity may promote a decrease in automatic motivational approach and avoidance tendencies evoked by positive and negative stimuli.

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