The Science of Mindfulness

Conversing with strangers - noticing if it's fun...or not

Mindfulness of often thought of as a seated, contemplative practice, however it is also a way of engaging with the world. This lifestyle mindfulness, so to say, involves paying close attention to the world around us, so that we notice new things and are attuned to variation and change. A recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard investigated how this sort of mindfulness relates to our relationships. In particular they were interested in synchronicities, or the way people tend to unconsciously coordinate their behavior in conversations.

In a fun experiment, participants were split into a mindful treatment group and a control group, and within each group were paired off to have conversations with each other. Participants were then separated, completed another task, and then were allowed to return to resume their conversations. Results showed that people in the control group returned to their partners at a relatively uniform amount of time, while those in the mindfulness group showed much more variation in how long they took to return.

Researchers interpreted this to mean that mindfulness increased peoples awareness of whether they were actually enjoying the conversation or not, with those who returned faster reporting that they liked their partner more compared to those who were slower to return. In the control group, however, all participants returned about at the same time.

At the end of the experiment, those high in mindfulness enjoyed their conversation more and felt more comfortable with their partners. Additionally, partners in the mindfulness group showed more closely matching heart rates than partners in the control group.



Keryn Breiterman-Loader
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