Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

8-2014

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

Psychological and Brain Sciences

Committee Chair

Salmon, Paul Gregory, 1948-

Committee Member

Cashon, Cara

Committee Member

DeCaro, Marci

Committee Member

Kelly, Brent

Committee Member

Stetson, Barbara

Subject

Stress (Psychology); Short-term memory; Self-consciousness (Awareness)

Abstract

The neuropsychological domain of working memory and the nearly 3000 year-old Buddhist construct of mindfulness appear to be disparate concepts. However, the measurable decline of working memory capacity (WMC) under stress, in combination with the stress-reducing and attention-focusing effects of mindfulness suggest potential augmentation of working memory through the engagement of mindful practice. A theoretical process through which dispositional mindfulness exerts a moderating effect on WMC reduction following an acute stressor is proposed. To investigate processes within this theoretical framework, a sample of undergraduate college students (N = 67) were assessed across various measures, including level of dispositional mindfulness, affective state, WMC, and physiological indices. Participants were then presented with an acute emotional stressor, in the form of death and injury images of the International Affective Picture System (IAPS; Lang, Bradley, & Cuthbert, 2005). Following stress induction, participants were reassessed for WMC and affective changes. Scores on affective measures underwent significant changes from pre- to post-stressor in the predicted direction, while scores on a measure of WMC increased, in contrast to a priori predictions. Dispositional mindfulness was not found to play a mediational role in affective, cognitive, or physiological changes from pre- to post-stressor. Implications of analyses for the present study, as well as for future research, are discussed.

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