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

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
May 13, 2019, 11:57 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Locations

Region

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
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
Starting April 8, 2019, the meditation course was advertised via the mailing system, newsletters and social media accounts of the faculty of economics and social sciences of a major German university. Students could apply for a place in the course until April 24, 2019, by registering and filling in a questionnaire, including an incentivized trust game and an incentive Stroop task, on a website. They also indicated at which session times offered they would be able to attend. Applicants who were eligible were randomly assigned to the treatment or the control groups at the individual level. Applicants, who only write exams that few other applicants write, were randomized stratified along these exams. Applicants knew that the number of places was limited.
There are 17 people in each meditation group and a total of 6 groups. Each group meets once a week, either on Wednesday or on Friday afternoon, for a one hour teacher-led session. There are three sessions per afternoon. All sessions on the same day are taught by the same teacher. There are two teachers in total teaching the course. All subjects in the treatment group also practice three times per day using audios pre-recorded by the meditation teachers.
The Wednesday sessions start on May 15, 2019, and the Friday sessions start on May 17, 2019. The sessions take place every week except for the Whitsun break (June 10-14) and the last sessions are on July 10 and July 12, 2019, respectively.
Shortly after the last sessions, treatment and control subjects are paid to fill in a second online questionnaire, including an incentivized trust game and an incentivized Stroop task.
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

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials