There is a growing body of randomized controlled trial (RCT) evidence indicating that mindfulness training interventions may reduce stress and improve stress-related disease outcomes. Yet we know little about the underlying active training mechanisms of mindfulness training. Although it is generally believed that mindfulness training interventions foster a capacity to monitor and accept present moment experience, debate currently focuses on whether it is the capacity to monitor experience moment-by-moment that is critical, or whether it is the capacity to both monitor and non-judgmentally accept experience that drives the salutary effects observed in mindfulness training interventions. This proposal offers a new account and dismantling test of these putative mechanisms of mindfulness training and stress reduction. Specifically, we predict that although learning how to monitor present moment experience will improve behavioral measures of attention, learning how to monitor plus accept present moment experience will reduce stress. These predictions will be tested by recruiting N=135 stressed community adults and randomizing them to either the (1) standard 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program which emphasizes training in both monitoring and accepting present moment experience (Monitor + Accept MBSR condition); (2) an adapted MBSR condition that emphasizes monitoring of one's present moment experience only (Monitor Only MBSR); or (3) No Treatment Control: assessment only. Participants will complete 3-days of daily experience sampling (Ecological Momentary Assessment) immediately before and after the 8-week intervention period to measure attentional control and stress perceptions in daily life. In order to measure psychological and HPA-axis stress reactivity to a controlled stressor, participants will also complete a standardized acute stress challenge task (the Trier Social Stress Test, TSST) immediately following the 3-day post-intervention assessment period. This developmental R21 project provides the first dismantling study of mindfulness meditation training, it utilizes cutting-edge daily experience sampling of real life stress (using EMA) and stress biomarkers (salivary cortisol), and will provide important initial information for designing more effective (and efficient) mindfulness training interventions in at-risk stressed patient populations.

Public Health Relevance

There has been significant recent public and research interest in mindfulness training interventions. But little is known about what active component(s) of mindfulness training interventions might be linked with stress reduction and health outcomes. The broad objective of this project is to test a new mechanistic account of the active components of mindfulness training interventions in stressed community adults.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Biobehavioral Mechanisms of Emotion, Stress and Health Study Section (MESH)
Program Officer
Weber, Wendy J
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Carnegie-Mellon University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Dutcher, Janine M; Creswell, J David (2018) Behavioral interventions in health neuroscience. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1428:51-70
Lindsay, Emily K; Chin, Brian; Greco, Carol M et al. (2018) How mindfulness training promotes positive emotions: Dismantling acceptance skills training in two randomized controlled trials. J Pers Soc Psychol 115:944-973
Lindsay, Emily K; Creswell, J David (2017) Mechanisms of mindfulness training: Monitor and Acceptance Theory (MAT). Clin Psychol Rev 51:48-59
Rahl, Hayley A; Lindsay, Emily K; Pacilio, Laura E et al. (2017) Brief mindfulness meditation training reduces mind wandering: The critical role of acceptance. Emotion 17:224-230