Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Robert Wahler

Committee Members

Allen Dunn, Kristina Gordon, Michael Olson


Mindfulness and mindlessness are often theoretically and psychometrically treated as opposing poles of a single dimension (e.g. Langer, 1989; Kabat-Zinn, 1990; Brown & Ryan, 2003). The present study examines the possibility of two differing styles of mindlessness, an oblivious form based upon defensive avoidance of experience and a reactive form based upon ruminative reaction to experience. These differing styles of mindless are theoretically similar to adult attachment status. The avoidant attachment style is conceptually related to an oblivious style of mindlessness in that both involve a defensive denial of certain aspects of experience, particularly those aspects that evoke feelings of vulnerability or emotional distress. The preoccupied adult attachment style is similar to the reactive style of mindlessness in that both involve a hyper-focus on emotionally distressing experiences and a subsequent affective destabilization. Given these similarities, the present study explored reactive and oblivious mindlessness by examining the interaction of mindfulness and adult attachment status. Adult attachment status is profoundly related to autobiographical narrative (e.g. Main, 1996; Mikulincer & Orbach, 1995). Accordingly, narrative measures were used to explore the relationship of attachment status and mindfulness.

Among participants with a preoccupied attachment status, mindfulness predicted decreased emotional articulacy. Among avoidant participants mindfulness predicted decreased emotional articulacy and increased complexity of representations of self and others. In contrast, among secure participants mindfulness had no relationship to narrative measures. These results suggest that mindfulness functions as a protective factor against the distressing rumination associated with emotional articulacy among those with an insecure attachment status. They also provide preliminary support for a theory of reactive and oblivious mindlessness and highlight the value of further research examining the interaction of mindfulness and attachment status.

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