Hi, Dana. Thank you for your questions about the paper, it certainly has gotten a great deal of media attention. And as is often the case, journalists sometimes misunderstand, misinterpret, or outright misrepresent what is stated in scientific studies, especially in the headlines over which they may have little control. This is an ongoing struggle with science journalism and communicating with the general public.
Speaking as a co-author of this paper and a staff member of the Center for Mindfulness, the paper discusses in more detail what we’re explicitly clear about in the programs we offer: mindfulness is not a cure all. It is not always the right time to take a mindfulness course. Self care is paramount, and the state of the scientific study of mindfulness is in the early stages with the constraints mentioned in the paper – small sample sizes, challenges with active controls, replication, and the complexity of human behavior. This is not limited to mindfulness, either, and is a continual set of issues arising with many fields of study. None of the authors consider that factual acknowledgment to be “severe”, but rather an honest facing of the current state of the science. It is because of that care for the learning and practice of mindfulness that we were actively involved, over the course of years, in the careful crafting of this paper.
I will defer to those in our research department to share their input as well; claims that mindfulness is a “done deal”, “proven”, and “the results are conclusive” are not phrases that tend to be used by reputable scientists and I’ve not heard such terms used here at CFM for the reasons mentioned above. Science is tentative, and even Laws and Theories as they are used within science are subject to falsification.
I’ve spoken directly with the author of the Newsweek piece in particular, as it was a good example of negative, mis-representative hype, and is part of the problem – hype pro and con is unhelpful to the public good. Science education is challenging enough without that, and so is the fallout from over promising results that aren’t in evidence. By suggesting greater rigor, we are fostering the long-term health of mindfulness research and mindfulness programs ability to deliver what is intended.
Interestingly, I’ve not seen the paper used to “trash” mindfulness by the same authors who make their name shouting about McMindfulness, in part because the paper itself doesn’t do that, and in part because we’re responsive to such misleading material as it appears. And that shall continue, we have ample opportunity to push back.
You may also be interested to hear Nicholas speak directly about the paper in our interview here – https://presentmomentmindfulness.com/2017/10/22/episode-098-nicholas-t-van-dam-mind-the-hype-a-critical-evaluation-and-prescriptive-agenda-for-research-on-mindfulness-and-meditation/
I hope that helps, and am happy to continue the conversation.