Meditation. Mindfulness. Making time to be in the moment. There’s a push for everyone to slow down in our fast-pace world, and for good reason. Science is showing that simple acts of meditation and mindfulness not only change the brain’s physical structure, but they also help you make better decisions.
Researchers at INSEAD and The Wharton School found that one 15-minute, focused-breathing meditation a day may help you make smarter choices. They conducted a series of studies exploring how meditation affects “sunk-cost bias” (i.e., not being able to cut your losses).
“Most people have trouble admitting they were wrong when their initial decisions lead to undesirable outcomes,” said researcher Andrew Hafenbrack, lead author on the research and a doctoral candidate at INSEAD. “They don’t want to feel wasteful or that their initial investment was a loss. Ironically, this kind of thinking often causes people to waste or lose more resources in an attempt to regain their initial investment or try to ‘break even.’”
The researchers discovered that mediation may mitigate this natural bias.
“We found that a brief period of mindfulness meditation can encourage people to make more rational decisions by considering the information available in the present moment, while ignoring some of the other concerns that typically exacerbate the ‘sunk-cost bias,’” Hafenbrack said.
One study had participants report how much they focus on the present moment and read 10 sunk-cost scenarios. They then reported how much they would let go of the sunk-costs. Those who focused on the present moment reported they would ignore sunk costs. In a follow-up experiment, participants listened to a 15-minute recording by a professional mindfulness coach, who instructed one group to focus on breathing. Another group was told to think of whatever comes to mind. Participants then answered sunk-cost scenario questions. A final study had participants answer questions about the time period on which they were focused (past, present, or future) and the emotions experienced.
Meditation increased resistance to sunk-cost bias in all the experiments.
“The debiasing effect of mindfulness meditation in sunk-cost situations was due to a two-step process,” said co-author Zoe Kinias. “First, meditation reduced how much people focused on the past and future, and this psychological shift led to less negative emotion. The reduced negative emotion then facilitated their ability to let go of sunk costs.”
Co-author Sigal Barsade said that meditation can be very practical.
“Our findings hold great promise for research on how mindfulness can influence emotions and behavior, and how employees can use it to feel and perform better,” Barsade said.
Do you meditate? If so, how does it help you in your job? Please share your experiences with us in the comments section.