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Mindfulness Meditators Are Less Affected By Virtual Reality (sciencedirect.com) 86

vrml writes: People often enroll in mindfulness meditation courses to pursue better health, but can such practices have unintended consequences on how they are engaged by emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR)? That's what comes out from a new study published by the Computers in Human Behavior. A group of people with no experience in meditation tried scary VR experiences with an head-mounted display, while researchers measured their emotional reactions through physiological parameters such as heart activity and facial muscles activity. Then, half the participants followed a typical 8-week mindfulness course, while the other half did not (control group). At the end of the 8 weeks, they tried VR again. Participants who had practiced mindfulness during the 8 weeks were much less affected by VR: the scary VR experiences were not able to increase their heart rate as 8 weeks earlier, facial muscles activity was reduced, and their subjective perception of VR was consistent with this lack of engagement. On the contrary, the control group did not show such changes, and was still affected by VR. The paper interprets this emotional deactivation of meditators in terms of self-regulation of attention and detachment that can be gained through mindfulness, and can persist also when people (as these participants trying VR) are not meditating.
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Mindfulness Meditators Are Less Affected By Virtual Reality

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @07:30PM (#51618501)

    ...is that one is not affected by hipster bullshit shallow flashy distractions.

    Fuck, I used to think mindfulness was eastern woowoo, but it's evolved into something that's actually useful for keeping oneself focused and rational, and I'm pleased to benefit from it. This is just another reason to recommend it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's the biggest problem with Randi-style bullshit skepticism (as indicated by your use of the term 'woo woo'). They rely completely on intuition and gut-feelings to decide if something is or is not credible, rather than reason and evidence. So strong is the impulse, they'll even deny evidence that contradicts their preconceptions even exists.

      Fortunately, you weren't completely duped by their irrational brand of popular rationality. Its too bad so many others will remain deluded because of that clown.

      • I'm guessing Randi debunked your pet delusion at some stage, right?
      • That's the biggest problem with Randi-style bullshit skepticism (as indicated by your use of the term 'woo woo'). They rely completely on intuition and gut-feelings to decide if something is or is not credible, rather than reason and evidence. So strong is the impulse, they'll even deny evidence that contradicts their preconceptions even exists.

        Fortunately, you weren't completely duped by their irrational brand of popular rationality. Its too bad so many others will remain deluded because of that clown.

        I've visited their forums. The groupthink is strong there. They usually argue that things are just as they seem. I guess that's in line with Randi's perspective. But it doesn't seem very skeptical to just defend the status quo. That seems more credulous.

    • by KGIII ( 973947 ) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @10:05PM (#51619117) Journal

      I'm a secular Buddhist, I've even been on refuge multiple times - including going to Nepal. I've been a practicing Buddhist (not a very good one and sure as fuck not a monk) for 20 years or so?

      A couple of things... I don't think we're all hipsters? Some might be. I am mindful because it enables me to be more understanding - it's purely selfish. There is no altruism there. I am mindful because it enables clarity and understanding. I am mindful because I want to be at peace with myself. A restful mind is a great place to live.

      Another, and this is more amusing than not, thing is that people seem inclined to tell me what I believe. "Oh, you can't believe that. Buddhists don't believe that." Err... Yes, yes we do. I am not even remotely unique in my beliefs and I'm perfectly well accepted, respected, and allowed to both speak and listen. I've been at this for a *very* long time, I'm pretty damned certain about who I am and what I believe.

      If you're curious, I believe in reincarnation but not like you might expect. My atoms will someday make up the materials of stars. I will not be conscious of it but my atoms will be used again. Someday, I will be a part of some star somewhere and even that cycle will begin anew until the heat death of the universe. Well, it might not be a star (and odds are against that) but I can hope.

      I believe in Karma and, again, not like one might expect. I believe that, for the most part, you get back out of it what you put into it. This is not always true and sometimes bad things happen to good people. My Karma will not be carried forward into the next life so I consider it a bank account. Why store it up if you're not going to spend it? (I even approach Slashdot Karma with the same views.)

      I don't proselytize nor do I actually give a shit what others believe. I do care how they act but mostly in regards to each other. I'll be fine without your compassion or acceptance. Being mindful, and then still of mind, means that I'm not so dependent on my ego and affirmation is not something I'm all that keen on. It would be boring to communicate with people who all agree with me. It's also important to mention again that I'm not a monk, I don't want to be a monk, I don't have the willpower to be a monk.

      I don't mention it often - my belief system is not something that's often on-topic. I've discussed it on Slashdot before and it often means someone comes along and tries to tell me what I can't believe. They obviously don't know much about Buddhism but they feel inclined to tell me all about my belief system. (Note: I did not say religion but you can use that word if you want.)

      An interesting aside; I was coming home from refuge once and still wearing my Kasaya (robes) and I noticed a difference in the way people react. I've since worn them in public in many areas. Nobody, and I mean nobody, seems inclined to mess with someone in the robes. They largely seem to assume I'm a monk (or a Hare Krishna, seriously) even though one needn't be a monk to wear them. I can assure you, I am no monk.

      At any rate, it's quite amazing how different you're treated. I've been in the middle of some messed up stuff and I can just meander through. Nobody cares. If they do care, it's to bow to you (I'm not sure why) or to want to shake your hand. Sometimes they expect you to speak wise words. The robes are awesome on an airplane when you've got someone next to you and they want to talk. Just point to your lips, shake your head, and they SMILE and leave you alone.

      As a compromise with myself, I have managed to keep a few "wise" things and koans handy for people who seem inclined to ask. It's okay that they ask, I don't mind. I was a bit startled at first as I'm not used to people looking at me as a source for wisdom. I don't have much for wisdom but I do have experiences. So, I usually share those.

      Hmm... What's a good one for today? How about, "A stone is only heavy when you carry it." To tie that into this topic, "You can not be mindful while carrying your burden. Let

      • Another, and this is more amusing than not, thing is that people seem inclined to tell me what I believe. "Oh, you can't believe that. Buddhists don't believe that." Err... Yes, yes we do. I am not even remotely unique in my beliefs and I'm perfectly well accepted, respected, and allowed to both speak and listen. I've been at this for a *very* long time, I'm pretty damned certain about who I am and what I believe.

        The core of the issue is that there are more forms of Buddhism than there are countries practicing it. What a Nichiren Buddhist in Japan believes is not the same as what a Shingon Buddhist in Japan believes, which is not the same as what a Soutou Buddhist in Japan believes, which in turn is not the same as what a Tibetan Buddhist believes... People see Buddhism as a unified belief system with a core dogma, but it's a family of beliefs systems stemming from the mixing of "Hinduism stripped down for export, s

        • You do know there are more dmenamantions of christianity than than countries practicing it too.

          Each with it's own set of twists, practices and faiths.

          Me personally I practice my own faith. a mix of methodism(christianity) and Buddhism, Allowing me to have faith in the world around me, without being caught up in a specific ritual.

          • Sure but at least the denominations of christianity do agree that there was this guy about 2000 years ago, who was the son of the one and only big boss, that the big boss pretty much created the whole reality, that eternal salvation is only through the boss or his son, that a set of clear instructions was given at some point, and that someone has the absolute knowledge. Of course, it also splintered into salvation by grace, by piety or by acts. If you are a christian, by definition you believe in the one go
      • by vernonB ( 636207 )
        As long as we're sharing: I've been a consistent sitter for 9 years, rarely missing a day. I started with a couple years of Zen training at a lay zendo in New York City before going my own way. Has meditation made me a happier, more stable, more equanimous and clear-minded person? I don't know. How could I? But I suspect (based on all the neuroscience and anecdotal evidence) that it probably has. I think it probably makes it possible for me to see what my mind is doing, at least some of the time, rather th
    • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @11:51PM (#51619551) Homepage

      The funny thing about this is that what's actually going on is that people who practice mindfulness are less easily rattled. It's got nothing to do with the VR googles.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Mindfulness meditation" is how one would describe someone actively practicing not living in the moment. In other words, they're saying that people who exist higher on the consciousness scale [midss.org] (there are several terms for what boils down to heightened awareness) are better able to distinguish reality from virtual reality.

    • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @07:41PM (#51618543)

      "Mindfulness meditation" is how one would describe someone actively practicing not living in the moment. In other words, they're saying that people who exist higher on the consciousness scale [midss.org] (there are several terms for what boils down to heightened awareness) are better able to distinguish reality from virtual reality.

      Actually, you have that backwards. "Mindfulness" is very much about living in the moment. It's nothing new, just a Western term for what is basically zen meditation. Think of it in terms of being "mindful," as in, just paying attention and not having your head up your ass.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        This... If I may opine, being mindful is being exactly that, mindful. You're aware of you - your surroundings, your thoughts, your breathing, your heart rate, you movements, your desires, your everything and - ideally - those things around you. There are varied levels of mindfulness, one might not want to be as mindful as they could be while driving - while being mindful while driving is also a good thing. It's not a binary thing, there are lots of shades of gray and being mindful of different things is a g

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        I wonder if a "not having your head up your ass workshop" would get as many attendees as a "mindfulness workshop."

  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @07:38PM (#51618529)

    Mindfulness meditators are less rattled by actual reality as well. That's kind of the whole point of it. Things that are scary or stressful don't knock them off balance as much. The VR angle should not be a surprise.

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you learn the same thing, without meditation.
    • by sacdelta ( 135513 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @07:56PM (#51618617)

      The VR angle is most likely an attempt to just make the study appear more modern and relevant.

      To properly test the VR aspect, they should repeat the study with non-VR stimulus to see if there is a significant difference in improvement.

      Otherwise it is just a study in meditation effect on stress response with the VR just tacked on so that tech news will carry it.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        What's more interesting is that VR can have quite a profound impact on the mind. More so than film, it seems. There are already efforts to use VR in treating PTSD, but we will probably need to look at new regulatory measures too. The voluntary code for games might be insufficient, and its likely there will be an effort made to enforce age ratings more strictly.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        It's easier to create a realistic stressful situation with VR than it is without. By "easier" I mean easier to sell to an ethics review board and get volunteers for.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Mindfulness meditators are less rattled by actual reality as well.

      There's a reason people experience an adrenaline rush in the face of a potential threat. It readies them to react quickly and perhaps save their life. If mindfulness meditation dulls that response, the results could be bad if the situation calls for immediate action.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        It doesn't dull that response. Well, more accurately, it doesn't have to. Mindfulness includes awareness of externalities. If anything, one is "in tune" with their surroundings at a higher/greater level and will thus notice abnormalities, such as threats, more rapidly. If I had to raise my hand and make a blind wager, based on experience, I'd submit that it has the opposite effect.

        Put it this way, do you want someone who's antsy and easily startled to be on the lookout or do you want someone who is calm and

    • by mwa ( 26272 )

      So... Mindfulness training can inoculate people against political propaganda?

      Can we get the U.S. population trained before November?

  • Well duh! Oh well I guess that if the study helps people to "get" what meditation is about it is a good thing.
  • by mADneSs ( 167736 ) on Tuesday March 01, 2016 @07:50PM (#51618589)

    Huh. Saw the headline and figured this was some new Ubuntu release or something.

  • thought it said "mindless meditation" for a moment...

  • Mindfulness

    Scary buzzwords give me the creeps!

  • The whole point of VR is to provide a close approximation of sensory stimuli that emulate reality such that you suspend disbelief - and therefore enjoy the exhilaration of the experience while 'inside' of the VR world presumably in situations you would never encounter in the real world.

    From my own experiences in various VR worlds - I also know that continued and repeated exposure to those worlds - and the recognition of the 'cracks' in the fidelity of the VR in a given world - lead to the same desensitiza

    • No - just the opposite. Meditation is not 'zoning out' or going to sleep - it is actually the opposite of that - becoming acutely aware of everything around you while quieting the inner stream of consciousness (monologue or dialogue depending on your level of schizophrenia). I think of the mind in this state as being like a computer with more free CPU cycles -- more processing can be directed constructively - thus having the outward effect of speeding up your reaction times in various scenarios.

      Not only your CPU runs at say 0.1% load, you will see time slowing down; like how Neo stops/picks the bullets when Smith fires at him. Of course no one can relate to this, unless you do it and experiment with yourself. blue-pill takers will only ridicule.

  • Meditation is about as good as a heavy dose of Valium?

    Makes sense.

As in certain cults it is possible to kill a process if you know its true name. -- Ken Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie

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