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Effects of meditation on social behavior
Last registered on May 13, 2019

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Effects of meditation on social behavior
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0004199
Initial registration date
May 11, 2019
Last updated
May 13, 2019 11:57 PM EDT
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Zurich
PI Affiliation
University of Cologne
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2019-05-15
End date
2021-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
We investigate whether mindfulness meditation may affect social behavior. Among subjects at a university who indicated that they are interested in participating in a meditation course it is randomly determined who gets a place in the course and who does not. The course consists of eight weekly group sessions with an experienced meditation teacher and daily individual exercises. Pre and post intervention information from incentivized trust games will be used to investigate whether meditation increases trust and altruism. Data from pre and post intervention questionnaires and administrative records allow us to additionally investigate channels (cognitive and non-cognitive skills, stress, mindfulness and mental health) through which the intervention may affect social behavior.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Cassar, Lea, Mira Fischer and Vanessa Valero. 2019. "Effects of meditation on social behavior." AEA RCT Registry. May 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.4199-1.0.
Former Citation
Cassar, Lea, Mira Fischer and Vanessa Valero. 2019. "Effects of meditation on social behavior." AEA RCT Registry. May 13. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/4199/history/46485.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Students at a major German university are offered a mindfulness meditation course, based on the well-known “mindfulness-based stress reduction” (MBSR) program. The course consists of eight weekly group sessions with an experienced meditation teacher and individual exercises with pre-recorded audios three times a day. The sessions take place on the university campus in the afternoon and will have 17 participants each.
Intervention Start Date
2019-05-15
Intervention End Date
2019-07-12
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
percentage of budget transferred as a first mover to a second mover in a trust game; percentage of budget re-transferred as a second mover to a first mover in a the trust game
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Subjects play an incentivized trust game, first in the role of first mover and then in the role of second mover. In the role of first mover, they can decide what percentage of a budget of 1.50 euros they want to transfer to the account of another student of their university, knowing that the amount is tripled and that the other student can then decide what percentage of the tripled amount they want to send back. In the role of second mover, subjects can decide what percentage of the amount another student of their university sent to them, and which was tripled, they want to return to that student.

Trust game:

Stage 1: eliciting trust

[Item wording:]
“For your participation in the survey in July you will receive a reward of 10 euros. You may invest up to 1.50 euros of this money in a game that works like this:

1. You may transfer some or all of the 1.50 euros to a student of the University of Cologne.
2. During the transfer, the amount is tripled and then ends up on the student’s game account.
3. The student may then decide how much of the tripled amount they want to transfer back to you. They may also transfer everything back or keep everything for themselves. The transferred amount then ends up on your game account like this (without being multiplied again) and will be paid out to you by the researchers in the end of the study together with the part of the reward you did not invest.

What percentage of the 1.50 euros would you like to transfer to the student?

Your transfer: [slider with a scale form 0% (nothing) -100% (everything); pre-set at 0%]”

[button to advance to next screen]

Stage 2: eliciting altruism

[Item wording:]
“Now, play the game once more but this time with reversed roles. Earned amounts will be paid out to you by the researchers after your participation in the survey in July.

1. A student of the University of Cologne transfers part of their 1.50 euros to you. This amount is tripled such that the tripled amount ends up on your game account.
2. You may transfer part of the amount back to the student. You may also transfer everything back or keep everything for yourself.

What percentage of the amount would you like to transfer back to the student?

Your re-transfer: [slider with a scale form 0% (nothing) -100% (everything); pre-set at 0%]”

[button to advance to next screen]
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
We investigate the potential channels through which the meditation course can influence social behavior. These are:
- stress
- mindfulness
- cognitive skills (self-control, attention/focus, academic abilities)
- non-cognitive skills (conscientiousness and neuroticism)
- mental health (anxiety and depression)
- meditation practice
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
We focus on variables that we know from the literature (i) are influenced by meditation, and (ii) are relevant for social behavior.
Scales:
- stress: Perceived Stress Scale (PSS)
- mindfulness: shortened mindfulness scale of the German Socio-Economic Panel Study Innovation Sample (SOEP-IS)
- anxiety: Generalized Anxiety Disorder - 7 (GAD-7)
- depression: Patient Health Questionnaire - 9 (PHQ-9)
- self-control: Brief Self-Control Scale
- attention/focus: Stroop task (incentivized)
- academic abilities: grades from the university’s administrative records
- conscientiousness and neuroticism: Big Five Inventory
- meditation practice: questions related to frequency and quality of meditation practice
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
A free meditation course was advertised to students, who could apply to the course by registering and filling in a questionnaire, including an incentivized trust game and an incentivized Stroop task, on a website. Students were randomly assigned to the treatment or the control group. They knew that the number of places was limited.
The treatment group participates in eight weekly meditation sessions with a teacher and completes daily individual exercises. After the course, treatment and control subjects are paid to fill in a second online questionnaire, including an incentivized trust game and an incentivized Stroop task.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Students are randomized into treatment and control group at the individual level. Students who only write exams that few other students write are randomized stratified along these exams.
Randomization Unit
Randomization is performed at the individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
224 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
224 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
102 students in the treatment group and 122 students in the control group
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
none
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Institutional Review Board of the University of Cologne
IRB Approval Date
2019-04-02
IRB Approval Number
N/A