We are lucky enough to have several talented academics on our staff and advisory board at Essentia, and one of them, Philip Maymin, an Essentia Insight Partner and analytics professor at Fairfield University, recently published a fascinating paper on the effects of mindfulness on decision outcomes in the Nature specialty journal on Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.
In the paper, entitled Cognitive Biases and Mindfulness, the researchers replicate a couple dozen standard tests of cognitive biases, such as anchoring, overconfidence, mental accounting, loss aversion, and the endowment effect – but with one wrinkle: some of the subjects are induced to be mindful before they do the tests. What they found was that those participants who were in a mindful state answered almost all of the test questions in a more rational manner than those who weren’t.
In other words, mindfulness reduces cognitive biases.
What is mindfulness? Though it is often confused with meditation or being considerate, it actually has nothing to do with either one. Mindfulness, as defined by Maymin’s co-author and “mother of mindfulness” Ellen Langer of Harvard University, is the simple process of noticing new things. When we notice new things, we become aware of what we don’t know, we become comfortable with uncertainty, and we come to recognize multiple perspectives.
In Langer’s research, she has found that mindfulness increases health and longevity, reduces stress, improves vision, creativity, self-esteem, and a whole host of other benefits. This latest paper shows that mindfulness makes us more “rational” in a variety of contexts.
From “Cognitive Biases and Mindfulness”: Maymin’s and Langer’s research found that “warming up” with simple thought exercises demonstrably mitigated behavioral biases in the subjects they studied.