Questions that warrant research attention

Davidson, R. J., & Dahl, C. J. (2018). Outstanding challenges in scientific research on mindfulness and meditation. Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol 13, no. 1, pp. 62-5, DOI: 10.1177/1745691617718358. Full text.

From the Introduction. The article by Van Dam and colleagues (see previous post in this blog) presents a very useful corrective to the hype and claims associated with the burgeoning interest in mindfulness and meditation. The authors review a number of key issues and concerns with research in this domain including the problematic meaning of the term “mindfulness,” the differing measures of mindfulness and challenges to their construct validity, challenges for clinical intervention methodology including the variations in the types and content of various mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) that have been examined, the growing evidence of potential adverse effects in a small subset of individuals who partake of MBIs, and the challenge of conducting neuro-scientific research in this area. For each of these topics, the authors also provide a prescriptive vision for the types of research that are needed to address the concerns and challenges that are described.

While we wholeheartedly agree with the central issues highlighted in this article and believe that this article, along with several other critical articles that have appeared recently, will provide an important recalibration of the claims and conclusions that are warranted from the contemporary scientific literature on this topic, we believe that the prescriptive agenda offered in their article can be usefully expanded.

In this commentary, we address a few of the specific concerns raised by the authors and show that they are not specific to mindfulness or meditation research and that attention to the broader context of these challenges can be helpful in addressing them. Second, we widen the prescriptive agenda offered in their article and underscore several key questions that the authors did not raise that warrant serious research attention for this
field to have impact. In this commentary we make five key points that build from the issues raised by Van Dam and colleagues.