Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Mark Weist


Mindfulness meditation involves the cultivation of a focused, pre-conceptual consciousness that enables increased present-centered awareness of internal states, cognitive processes, and external stimuli (Mikulas, 2011; Kornfield, 2010). Studies suggest that mindfulness practice affects the brain structures and cognitive processes related to fluid intelligence, and may affect fluid intelligence itself among highly experienced practitioners (e.g., Gard, Taquet, et al., 2014; Lazar et al., 2005; Ritskes et al., 2003). Fluid intelligence includes higher-order reasoning and problem-solving abilities that are independent of cultural and environmental influences. These abilities peak in young adulthood, then begin to decay (Cattell, 1987; Goldberg, 2005).

The current study explored the effect of mindfulness on age-related cognitive decline. In a multiple linear regression analysis and in a series of hierarchical regressions, the relationships of mindfulness experience, trait mindfulness, age and fluid abilities were examined in a group of adults ages 18-75. Findings indicate a significant positive relationship between mindfulness experience and fluid intelligence that was present after key factors known to influence fluid abilities were controlled. Although the effect size of this relationship was modest, it was detectible despite the relatively low experience-level of participants. Because fluid intelligence is related to real-world success, even small improvements may have practical significance. In addition, mindfulness is an accessible, cost-effective intervention with other benefits that amplify its value. However, future longitudinal research will be necessary to establish a causal link.

Although mindfulness experience was related to fluid intelligence, it did not moderate the relationship of age and fluid intelligence. Trait mindfulness had no unique significant relationship to fluid intelligence in this study and played no moderating role.


© 2015, Elise J. Herndon