A Reset Button For Attention

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 A new study suggests that mindfulness meditation can be used as a method to improve attention and heighten appreciation for music.

As a high school orchestra and band educator, Frank Diaz tried using yoga and meditation as a means to heighten music engagement. The techniques seemed to improve student attention. Now Diaz is a researcher at the University of Oregon, studying the effect of mindfulness meditation on music engagement and performance as a scientist. Rick Nauert on PsychCentral reports:

“In a study appearing online ahead of publication in the journal Psychology of Music, he reports a rise of focused engagement for student participants who listened to a 10-minute excerpt of Giacomo Puccini’s opera ‘La Boheme’ after engaging in a 15-minute guided meditation session.

Diaz notes that the mindfulness meditation helped move participants into a zone of readiness to listen to music they’ve heard many times before. ‘Meditation practice tends to take habituated responses and renews them. It’s almost like a reset button,’ Diaz said. ‘For musicians, if you’re a symphony player, you’ve probably played “Beethoven’s No. 9″ 10,000 times. Your response is so habituated that you don’t get any pleasure out of it anymore.’

Diaz believes the study findings may influence future music education. ‘Attention can be modified,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t have to be done chemically or by changing the environment. Human beings have the capacity to learn to self-regulate their attention, and when you do that it increases the quality of typical, everyday experiences.'” (Read more here.)

I love the idea of a “reset button” for attention—and the notion that we can experience anew the pleasure of an aesthetic experience that had grown familiar and tired.

Have you ever had the experience of reawakening to a piece of music or art that had lost its capacity to inspire? How did it happen?

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3 Responses to “A Reset Button For Attention”

  1. It’s disappointing to read you lauding the idea of a ‘reset button’ when the evidence provided by this paper for such a thing is quite weak.

    If you read that paper you will see that the Method section is extremely light on detail about the mindfulness exercise used. No link or citation is provided to it, and the vague reference only points to an online resource which has been removed.

  2. anniempaul says:

    I agree with you–the “Methods” section of the paper is a bit skimpy. But I believe that the mindfulness exercise referenced in the paper is indeed still available online, at this link: https://itunes.apple.com/itunes-u/caps-self-help-materials/id482648690

  3. Aha! thank you for that. But now I will have to download iTunes. On the whole, I am not sure that the cost/benefit risk to my mental health is worth it!

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