Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 131 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Mitch Earleywine

Committee Members

John P Forsyth, Loretta S Malta, Jeanette Altarriba, Cheryl A Frye


Anxiety, Attention, Depression, Emotion, Mindfulness, Stress, Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, Depression, Mental, Stress (Psychology), Meditation

Subject Categories

Biological Psychology | Psychology


Attempts to define mindfulness in the clinical and psychological sciences have been marred by contradictions, inconsistencies, and controversies. In this wait-list (WL) controlled mindfulness meditation training (MMT) study, the efficacy and potential mechanisms of MMT was tested in a community sample with undiagnosed, but significant, symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. In a pre/post design, which also included 3 month follow-up, participants completed self-report measures, participated in a psychosocial stress task (before and after which they completed self-report mood questionnaires and had physiological and salivary neuroendocrine markers collected), and completed an emotional attentional blink paradigm. Compared to WL (n = 13), MMT (n = 21) showed reduced symptoms of anxiety (p < .001), depression (p = .001), and perceived stress (p = .023). These reductions were best explained, via backwards multiple regression by changes in self-judgment and over-identification. These changes were also accompanied by improved subjective and normalized neuroendocrine responses to an acute psychosocial stressor. While the WL group showed small decreases or modest increases in subjective distress following psychosocial stress, the MMT group showed large decreases (p's < .01). Additionally, while the MMT group maintained an appropriate salivary alpha amylase response (reflecting the sympathetic adrenal medullary system), the WL group exhibited an habituated response from pre to post-training (p = .004). The MMT group also exhibited an increased salivary cortisol response (reflecting the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal system) from an initially blunted baseline, while the WL group effectively showed no change (p = .008). Additionally, the MMT group exhibited an increased ability to flexibly allocate attention to emotional faces in a rapid serial visual presentation task (p = .017). Finally, the changes in attentional allocation were significantly correlated with changes in salivary alpha amylase, across groups (p < .05). The findings from this empirical study suggest that mindfulness decreases psychological symptoms, in part, by improving efficiency of attentional allocation to emotion, and by generating emotional stability in response to psychosocial stress. The present study provides insight into the broad efficacy of MMT and the potentially important role of attentional and emotional balance in mindfulness.