The NYT got it wrong: Mindfulness & meditation are still good for you (and your work)


Brocato, Nicole September 21, 2018
Posted in group: Wellbeing Collaborative

Happy Friday, everyone!

I’ve recently had a couple of folks mention to me in a somewhat terrified way that a new study has shown meditation to be bad for productivity.

I’m a meditator of 30 years myself, so I had to check it out and report to all of you what I found, just in case you were having similar conversations.

For those of you who don’t want to read this long email:  As happens sometimes in the fields of research and reporting, the original results were “stretched” a bit.  The study did not find evidence that meditation is bad for productivity.  Education Week has a great op-ed piece about the potential misapplications of mindfulness and the benefits of well-applied programs in educational settings (a thank-you to my source!).

The hubbub was started by an NYT article claiming that meditation is bad for productivity. That article was based on a study published in Organization Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

I’ve skimmed the original study, but I think the folks at Psychology Today provided a great counter-perspective, including an in-depth criticism of the original study’s methods.

The Psychology Today article essentially said that the original study focused on motivation levels in connection to tasks outside the workplace subsequent to a one-time meditation exercise, which is not at all the same thing as studying actual productivity levels within the workplace subsequent to ongoing meditation practice.

Even the original study had more modest conclusions: while mindfulness meditation may have reduced motivation to complete the study tasks, it did not impair performance.

What are your thoughts about and experiences with meditation and mindfulness in education? Have any of you had to negotiate attempts to: misapply meditation as a panacea, use it to suppress expressions of discontent, or force it onto people who were uninterested or unprepared? If you have had success with engaging reluctant stakeholders, how have you done it?

Best as always,


Nicole W Brocato, PhD
Director, Wellbeing Assessment
3105 Worrell
Wake Forest University
office: 336-758-6419
cell: 336-745-1815