As a form of attention, mindfulness is qualitatively receptive and non-reactive, and is thought to facilitate adaptive emotional responding. One suggested mechanism is that mindfulness facilitates disengagement from an affective stimulus and thereby decreases affective reactivity. However, mindfulness has been conceptualized as a state, intervention, and trait. Because evidence is mixed as to whether self-reported trait mindfulness decreases affective reactivity, we used a multi-method approach to study the relationship between individual differences in self-reported trait mindfulness and electrocortical, electrodermal, electromyographic, and self-reported responses to emotional pictures. Specifically, while participants (N = 51) passively viewed pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant IAPS pictures, we recorded high-density (128 channels) electrocortical, electrodermal, and electromyographic data to the pictures as well as to acoustic startle probes presented during the pictures. Afterwards, participants rated their subjective valence and arousal while viewing the pictures again. If trait mindfulness spontaneously reduces general emotional reactivity, then for individuals reporting high rather than low mindfulness, response differences between emotional and neutral pictures would show relatively decreased early posterior negativity (EPN) and late positive potential (LPP) amplitudes, decreased skin conductance responses, and decreased subjective ratings for valence and arousal. High mindfulness would also be associated with decreased emotional modulation of startle eyeblink and P3 amplitudes. Although results showed clear effects of emotion on the dependent measures, in general, mindfulness did not moderate these effects. For most measures, effect sizes were small with rather narrow confidence intervals. These data do not support the hypothesis that individual differences in self-reported trait mindfulness are related to spontaneous emotional responses during picture viewing.
Cosme, D., & Wiens, S. (2015). Self-Reported Trait Mindfulness and Affective Reactivity: A Motivational Approach Using Multiple Psychophysiological Measures. PLOS One, 10(3), e0119466.