Date of Award

5-2005

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Robert G. Wahler

Committee Members

Kristi Gordon, Lowell Gaertner

Abstract

Autobiographical narrative is the verbal summary of an individual's personal history. The quality of autobiographical narrative has been found to correlate with both emotional wellbeing (Oppenheim et al., 1997; Baerger & McAdams, 1999) and quality of social relationships (Van IJzendoorn, 1995; Shields et. al., 2001), and yet little has been done to examine other predictors or causes of narrative quality. Mindfulness training could potentially be a promising method of narrative enhancement. Mindfulness is the nonjudgmental, open awareness of what is currently occurring in the self and in the environment. Mindfulness is likely to promote open, objective awareness of new information and non-biased accommodation of existing schemas and narratives to new information. A similar prediction was recently made by Bishop et al. (2004). In their recent operationalization of mindfulness, they hypothesized that mindfulness practice leads to increased understanding of the subjectivity and limitations of one's own cognitive processes. They called for the use of coding procedures to assess the complexity of cognitive representations in self-narrative to test this hypothesis.

This study confirmed this hypothesis by demonstrating a positive relationship between mindfulness, as measured by the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (Brown & Ryan, 2003) and narrative richness as coded according to Castle bury & Wahler's (1997) autobiographical narrative coding system. This indicates that mindful people typically generate more complex and detailed narratives. In addition the relationship between mindfulness and narrative coherence (Castlebury & Wahler, 1997) was also examined and a negative correlation was found suggesting that mindful people also tend to have more disordered, unclear, or tangential narratives. These relationships continued to be statistically significant after controlling for several other personality factors, including the Big Five (Costa & McCrae, 1992).

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