Pablo Briñol, Richard E. Petty, and Joshua J Guyer
The history of attitudes research can be organized into three main sections covering attitude definition and measurement, attitude-behavior relationships, and attitude change. First, an evaluation of the history of attitude measurement reveals three relatively distinct phases: an early phase in which the classic direct self-report procedures were developed, a middle phase focused on “indirect” assessment devices, and a modern phase in which various measures designed to capture people’s automatic or “implicit” attitudes have flourished. Second, the history of attitude-behavior correspondence can be organized also around three broad themes: an early period in which the presumed close association between attitudes and behaviors was largely an article of faith; a middle period in which some researchers concluded that little, if any, relationship existed between measures of attitudes and overt behaviors; and a more recent period in which the resolution of prior issues stimulated an explosion of research focused on identifying the moderators and psychological mechanisms responsible for attitude-behavior correspondence. Finally, the history of research and ideas regarding attitude change and persuasion can be organized around several prominent theories focused on distinct single processes, dual processes, or multiple processes, each of which are still used by contemporary attitudes researchers.
This historical overview of the concepts of harmony in Chinese culture situates the topic in the ecological context of a strong-ties society that fosters a type of rationality that privileges symmetry over asymmetry. Analysis of the discourse of harmony focuses on the texts of two native schools of thought—Confucianism and Taoism—and briefly mentions Buddhism (a religion imported from India). The modern history of harmony has just begun but is already portentous. The turbulent course of China’s rapid modernization suggests the possibility that as China transitions from a strong-ties society to the weak-ties global market, harmony may be encountering, for the first time, contradictions that defy harmonization. Whatever the future holds for the Chinese legacy of harmony, its contribution to the happiness and well-being of the individuals in their intimate relationship with self and others is likely to remain unchallenged.
Erika Dyck and Emmanuel Delille
Alternative therapies are sometimes associated with non-biological approaches, or practices that do not undergo rigorous testing or produce consistently repeatable results. In the 1970s, some alternative therapies also openly embraced spiritual dimensions that directly conflicted with a Western bio-medical paradigm, placing them within a category of new age medicine, suggesting that such therapies were both eclectic and outside the boundaries of orthodox clinical care. The timing and location of these therapies reveals a particular context that gave rise to treatments seeking non-orthodox approaches, and arguably for a set of conditions that also emerged out of a Cold War context of affluence, dissatisfaction, and cultural anxiety. Some of these alternative therapies overlapped, with founders and consumers borrowing principles from different therapies to produce an approach that itself might be considered alternative to orthodox or mainstream western bio-medical practice. Situated predominantly on the American west coast, in California, these alternative therapies are illustrative of a regional culture of therapy. One, in particular, that embraced elements of radicalism alongside a collision of individualistic and collective approaches to care and responsibility. This article examines four such therapies: psychedelics, primal scream, nude therapy, and sociodrama. It is argued that beyond the inherent differences among them and their common flirtations with orthodox biomedicine, these four sets of practices are also historically significant for what they reveal about the place of psychology as a discipline after the Second World War. With each of these therapies, their history reveals a tension with psychoanalysis that attempts to redefine the relationship between the therapist and the patient. Although none of these therapies endured in their original form into the 21st century, revisiting this history offers insight into the changing state of psychotherapy in the latter half of the 20th century, and a focus on alternative therapies helps to elucidate some of the professional and cultural tensions that fuelled subsequent changes in the therapeutic landscape.
Marcia E. Holmes
From the end of World War II until roughly 1989, global leaders feared that cataclysmic war would break out between the world’s two superpower states, the Soviet Union and the United States. Though such a confrontation did not occur, the stalemate between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States—with its simmering fears, proxy battles, and psychological warfare—became known as the Cold War. Psychological expertise played an important role in the Cold War, especially within Western democracies like the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. In these countries, citizens tended to view the Cold War as a “battle for minds”: a fight against communist political ideology, totalitarianism, social conformity, and other threats to individual mental freedom. Anglo-American psychology flourished within this intellectual environment by finding new topics and applications for research, new sources of funding, and a new image as essential to the functioning of healthy democracy.
Historians continue to debate how the Cold War influenced the field of psychology. Overall, the strategic partnership between psychology and the “military-industrial complex” was limited to certain initiatives. In some cases, Anglo-American psychologists who used their expertise to fight the Cold War were led into questionable pursuits, resulting in greater public scrutiny and even scandals for themselves and their profession. Nonetheless, the Cold War had a significant impact on Anglo-American psychology by making the relationship between psychological knowledge and democratic values a continual subject of public concern.
Sarah Krichbaum, Adam Davila, Lucia Lazarowski, and Jeffrey S. Katz
The contemporary field of animal cognition began over 150 years ago when Charles Darwin posed questions regarding the abilities of the animal mind. Animal cognition is a science dedicated to understanding the processes and mechanisms that allow nonhumans to think and behave. The techniques that are used and the species that are studied are diverse. The historical questions originally proposed by ethologist Nikolas Tinbergen as a framework for studying animal behavior remain at the core of the field. These questions are reviewed along with the domains and methods of animal cognition with a focus on concept learning, memory, and canine cognition. Finally, ideas on how a field rich in tradition and methodological strength should proceed in the future are presented.
Michael J. Beran
Comparative psychology is the study of behavior and cognition across species. In recent decades, much of this research has focused on cognitive capacities that are well studied in humans. This approach provides comparative perspectives on the evolution of these cognitive capacities. Although in many areas humans shows distinct aspects of various cognitive processes, it is clear that for most major topics in human cognition, important and illustrative data are available from studies with other animals. Moreover, these areas of investigation increasingly show continuities between the behavior of other species and human behavior. Several of these cognitive processes, including concept and category learning, numerical cognition, memory, mental time travel and prospective cognition, metacognition, and language learning, highlight these continuities and demonstrate the richness of mental lives in other animals. Nonhuman animals can discriminate between categories of perceptual and conceptual classes, they can form concepts, and they can use those concepts to guide decision making and choice behavior. Other species can engage in rudimentary numerical cognition, and more importantly share with humans certain core quantitative abilities for the approximate representation of magnitude and number. Nonhuman animals share many phenomena of memory that are well-recognized in humans, and in some cases may even share the capacity to mentally re-experience the past and to anticipate and plan for the future. In some cases, some species may even reflect on their own knowledge states, memory accessibility, and perceptual acuity as they make metacognitive judgments. And, studies of animal communication provided the basis for intensive assessments of language-like behavior in certain species. Taken together, these results argue much more for continuity than discontinuity. This should not be seen as a challenge to the uniqueness of human minds, but rather as a way to better understand how we became the species we are through the process of evolution.
In psychology, the term “attachment” has been made popular by British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby’s theory about the adaptive value of the mother–infant bond. Bowlby was not the first to use the term “attachment” or to study the significance of close emotional relationships for infants and young children. Anna Freud and other psychoanalysts had used the term to refer to the mother–child relationship. Bowlby’s views, however, departed from psychoanalysis because he appealed to the science of ethology, the biological study of behavior, for support. According to Bowlby, the mother–infant attachment has a biological basis.
The operationalization of the ethological theory of attachment through the work of American- Canadian child psychologist Mary Ainsworth played a key role in the rise of the ethological theory of attachment to paradigmatic status toward the end of the 20th century. Ainsworth carried out observational studies of the attachment between mothers and infants. She also designed an experiment, the strange situation procedure (SSP), to measure and categorize attachment relationships between infants and mothers. Ainsworth and her students argued that their experimental work in the SSP supported Bowlby’s views about the instinctual nature of the child’s attachment to the mother and the importance of a secure attachment in infancy for a person’s adequate emotional development.
Attachment theory has become one of psychology’s most influential theories about early child development and its impact on an individual’s subsequent emotional life and adult relationships. Supporters claim its universal validity and its prescriptive character. For them, attachment theory establishes the norm of what is considered healthy emotional and psychological childhood development, and it sets the standards for good parenting. In the Western world, attachment theory has an impact in various realms, including childcare, adoption policies, education, and therapy. Many schools of early childhood education identify children at risk for poor learning in the classroom as a result of attachment problems at home. Pediatricians often rely on attachment theory to encourage specific practices in parent–child interactions. Therapeutic approaches for children, families, and couples are sometimes based on attachment theory, as are decisions about adoption, parental rights, and child custody. Furthermore, some intervention programs in family and educational practices implemented by international NGOs rely on attachment theory.
The ethological theory of attachment, however, has also been contested since its inception. Several psychologists critiqued the empirical studies about maternal deprivation on which it was erected. Other scholars challenged the notion that biological science supports its claims. Finally, numerous cross-cultural psychologists and anthropologists challenged the universality of several of its central tenets. They call for recognizing the cultural assumptions embedded in attachment theory, in the instruments and constructs used to measure it, and in the expectations it promotes about good parenting.
Ananiev’s approach shares the Activity Theory (AT) paradigm, dominant in Soviet psychology. Ananiev builds on the main fundamentals of the AT paradigm, considering psyche as a special procreation of the matter, engendered by the active interaction of the individual with the environment. The unique feature of his approach to AT is that he turned it “toward the inside,” focusing on the relation of the human individual to his own physicality, to his own bodily substrate. Ananiev sought by his intention to keep a holistic vision of a human being, considering the latter in the context of his real life, that is, the bodily substrate in its biological specificity in context of the concrete sociohistorical life course of the personality. Like no other psychologist, Ananiev did not limit his research to the sphere of narrowly defined mental phenomena. He conducted a special kind of research, labeled as “complex,” in the course of which characteristics of the same subjects: sociological, socio-psychological, mental, physiological, and psychophysiological indicators—life events of the subjects—were monitored for many years. He focused on ontogenetic development in adulthood, which he, ahead of his time, considered as a period of dynamic changes and differentiated development of functions. The focus of his attention was on individual differences in the ontogenetic development of mental and psycho-physiological functions, especially those deviations from general regularities that resulted from the impact of the life course of the individual. Individualization, the increase of individual singularity, is the main effect of human development and its measure for Ananiev.
Ananiev developed a number of theoretical models and concepts. The best-known of Ananiev’s heritage is his theoretical model of human development, often named the “individuality concept.” According to this model, humans do not have any preassigned “structure of personality” or “initial harmony.” The starting point of human development is a combination of potentials—resources and reserves, biological and social. The human creates himself in the process of interaction with the world. Specialization, individually specific development of functions, appears here not as a distortion of the pre-set harmony of the whole but as the way of self-determining progressive human development. The most important practical task of psychology he viewed as psychological support and provision in the process of developing a harmonious individuality, based on the individual potentials.
Trevor A. Harley
Research in the psychology of language has been dogged by some enduring controversies, many of which continue to divide researchers. Furthermore, language research has been riven by too many dichotomies and too many people taking too extreme a position, and progress is only likely to be made when researchers recognize that language is a complex system where simple dichotomies may not be relevant. The enduring controversies cover the width of psycholinguistics, including the work of Chomsky and the nature of language, to what extent language is innately determined and the origin of language and how it evolved. Chomsky’s work has also influenced our conceptions of the modularity of the structure of the mind and the nature of psychological processing. Advances in the sophistication of brain imaging techniques have led to debate about exactly what these techniques can tell us about the psychological processing of language. There has also been much debate about whether psychological processing occurs through explicit rules or statistical mapping, a debate driven by connectionist modeling, deep learning, and techniques for the analysis of “big data.” Another debate concerns the role of prediction in language and cognition and the related issues of the relationship between language comprehension and language production. To what extent is language processing embodied, and how does it relate to controversies about “embedded cognition”? Finally, there has been debate about the purpose and use of language.
W. Andrew Achenbaum
Edmund V. Cowdry’s Problems of Ageing (1939), the first U.S. handbook in gerontology, spurred efforts to systematize and communicate data and hypotheses in a “discouragingly difficult field,” as one of the volume’s contributors put it. Researchers, educators, and practitioners subsequently published handbooks of aging to share basic concepts, norms, and metaphors—and eventually to construct theories.
Compared to theoretical constructs that animate African American studies, paradigms that inform inquiries into sex and gender, and queer theory-building, research on aging is sustained by few evidence-based, methodologically robust, heuristic theories. No single construct yet seizes the gerontological imagination. Analyzing notable handbooks reveals that the modern history of ever-emerging gerontological theory building went through three phases.
First, attempts to formulate Big Theories of Aging resulted in more disappointments than scientific advances. In the second phase, researchers on aging set more modest aims, often giving priority to methodological innovation, but failed to promote consilience in a data-rich, theory-poor arena. Psychological theories, pertaining to lifespan development, merit special attention in the third phase, because they proved useful to biomedical and social scientists doing research on aging.
Forensic psychology in the 21st century entails the application of psychology to all aspects of the criminal justice process. Forensic psychologists, therefore, are engaged in the theorization of offending, offender profiling, the psychology of testimony, investigative interviewing, the psychology of juries and judges, and psychological approaches to the punishment and treatment of offenders. Historically, however, forensic psychology, has been narrower in scope.
Founded principally in Europe during the late 19th century as a response to the reform of criminal procedure and research on suggestion, which undermined confidence in witness credibility, forensic psychology was initially pursued by jurists and psychiatrists eager to understand the behavior of all those involved in the criminal justice process. While this ambition was pursued piecemeal by jurists throughout the early 20th century in their studies of guilty knowledge, judges, jurors, and investigators, the exigencies of the courtroom, soon saw the field become focused on the psychology of the witness, particularly the juvenile witness. Important, in this regard were the efforts of both European and American experimental psychologists, whose precarious position within universities at the fin de siècle saw them look for real-world applications for psychology and led them to campaign voraciously for the inclusion of psychological knowledge and psychological expertise in legal proceedings.
Competition between several disciplines, including law, psychology, psychiatry, and pedagogy, over the role of psychological expert made the professionalization of this field difficult up until the Second World War. During the late 1940s and 1950s, however, not only did forensic psychology increasingly become the exclusive purview of psychologists, but the discipline’s scope began to expand. Notable in this regard was offender profiling, which emerged from the psychological analysis of war criminals and the application of the insights gained here to several high-profile criminal cases in the United States.
Lawrence A. Shapiro
Philosophical functionalism, as distinct from the psychological school of functionalism that enjoyed popularity around the turn of the 20th century, is a theory about the nature of mental states. That is, functionalism offers an account of which conditions must be satisfied for something to count as a belief, or a desire, or a pain, or an itch, or a fear, or a memory. Functionalism is thus a metaphysical doctrine about mental states, that is, a doctrine concerning what makes something a mental state. “Metaphysical,” in this context, should not be taken to suggest anything mysterious. Chemistry is a metaphysical doctrine in just the same sense as functionalism: it is a theory that offers an account of which conditions must be satisfied for something to count as, say, a pure chemical substance rather than a mixture. As philosophical theories go, functionalism has been fantastically successful. Its contemporary form traces to seminal work that H. Putnam initiated in the 1960s, and it remains in early 21st century the most widely accepted theory of the nature of mental states among philosophers in the Anglo tradition.
According to functionalism, the conditions necessary and sufficient for something to be a mental state are specified in terms of functional role. Functionalists have disagreed about the correct basis on which functional descriptions of mental states should rest, with the result that functionalism is better conceived as a family of closely related theories about the nature of mental states rather than a single uniform view. Briefly, the idea of functional role can be usefully illustrated by consideration of an artifact, such as a corkscrew, the nature of which is defined in terms of the function of removing corks. What it is to be a corkscrew is to perform this functional role. Likewise, the functionalist claims, what it is to be a mental state is to perform the functional role characteristic of a belief, or a desire, or a pain, and so on.
Gestalt psychology is an holistic approach to psychology launched in 1910 by three psychologists: Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka. It was conceived to oppose elementary or atomistic psychology, the conception that psychical processes consist of elements whose associations produce the contents experienced in the mind or soul. Instead, Gestalt psychology holds that configurations or, in German, Gestalten, not these hypothetical elements, are the primary material underlying experience. Beginning with research in perception, the Gestalt approach was soon applied to other fields of psychology. Gestalt theory, inspired by field theories in physics, tried to lay a common groundwork for psychology, physiology, and physics. The Gestalt movement originated in Germany, but the three protagonists for personal and political reasons resettled in the United States where the movement became an important force combatting the dominance of behaviorism. The Gestalt approach was especially fruitful in empirical psychology, but it did not fulfill the promise of turning psychology into a unified science based on a common theoretical ground.
Gustav Theodor Fechner (b. 1801–d. 1887) is well known to psychologists as the founder of psychophysics, a set of methods for empirically relating measured sensory stimulus to reported sensation. Rich as this field of research has proven to be, especially as detection instruments and recording devices have improved in modern times, Fechner himself would be disappointed to discover that he is remembered merely for psychophysics as psychologists understand it today. To Fechner, those particular methods and approaches were only one part of the domain of psychophysics—outer psychophysics—whereas he envisioned psychophysics (both outer and inner) to be the key to the broadest kind of scientific worldview: the study of the relationship between the material world and the mental world (indeed the spiritual universe; in German, die geistige Welt).
The preface of Fechner’s 1860 masterwork, Elements of Psychophysics, states, “[I]t is an exact theory of the relation of mind to body. . . . As an exact science psychophysics, like physics, must rest on experience and the mathematical connection of those empirical facts that demand a measure of what is experienced or, when such a measure is not available, a search for it.” In that definition, Fechner reveals his view of natural science, and how psychophysics was meant to expand the range of natural science and the scope of its achievements. Fechner’s influence emerged during the mid-19th century, as the physical and medical sciences were achieving great breakthroughs and establishing fundamental and unifying concepts; this was especially true in Germany, including the city where he came to study and remained for the rest of his life, Leipzig. Fechner was one of the most enthusiastic and optimistic believers in unifying concepts of science.
Fechner’s psychophysics gave important impetus to psychometrics and experimental psychology; he also proposed a statistical approach to aesthetics and a “theory of collectives” that pointed toward statistical interpretations of many (perhaps all) areas of experience. In his early career he was a central figure in German physics and an early supporter of the atomic theory of matter as well as Darwinian evolution. His profoundly spiritual ideas, however, were out of step with the science of his time. This aspect of Fechner’s thought is evident in his inner psychophysics, where he searched for the full measure of “what is experienced.”
Karyna Pryiomka and Joshua Clegg
Like science in general, psychological research has never had a method. Rather, psychologists have deployed many methods under quite variable justifications. The history of these methods is thus a history of contestation. Psychology’s method debates are many and varied, but they mostly constellate around two interconnected concerns: psychology’s status as a science, and psychology’s proper subject matter. On the first question, the majority position has been an attempt to establish psychology as scientific, and thus committed to quantification and to objective, particularly experimental, methods. Challenging this position, many have argued that psychology cannot be a science, or at least not a natural one. Others have questioned the epistemic privilege of operationalization, quantification, experimentation, and even science itself. Connecting epistemic concerns with those of ethics and morality, some have pointed to the dehumanizing and oppressive consequences of objectification. In contrast to the debates over psychology’s status as a science, the question of its proper subject matter has produced no permanent majority position, but perennial methodological debates. Perhaps the oldest of these is the conflict over whether and how self, mind, or consciousness can be observed. This conflict produced famous disagreements like the imageless thought controversy and the behaviorist assault on “introspection.” Other recurrent debates include those over whether psychologists study wholes or aggregates, structures or functions, and states or dynamic systems.
Noemi Pizarroso Lopez
Historical psychology claims that the mind has a history, that is, that our ways of thinking, reasoning, perceiving, feeling, and acting are not necessarily universal or invariable, but are instead subject to modifications over time and space. The theoretical and methodological foundations of this movement were laid in France by psychologist Ignace Meyerson in his book Les fonctions psychologiques et les œuvres, published in 1948. His program stressed the active, experimental, constructive nature of human behavior, spanning behavioral registers as diverse as the linguistic, the religious, the juridical, the scientific/technical, and the artistic. All these behaviors involve aspects of different mental functions that we can infer through a proper analysis of “works,” considered as consolidated testimonies of human activity. As humanity’s successive achievements, constructed over the length of all the paths of the human experience, they are the materials with which psychology has to deal.
Meyerson refused to propose an inventory of functions to study. As unstable and imperfect products of a complex and uncertain undertaking, they can be analyzed only by avoiding the counterproductive prejudice of metaphysical fixism. Meyerson spoke in these terms of both deep transformations of feelings, of the person, or of the will, and of the so-called “basic functions,” such as perception and the imaginative function, including memory, time, space, and object.
Before Meyerson the term “historical psychology” had already been used by historians like Henri Berr and Lucien Febvre, a founding member of the Annales school, who firmly envisioned a sort of collective psychology of times past. Meyerson and his disciples eventually vied with their fellow historians of the Annales school for the label of “historical psychology” and criticized their notions of mentality and outillage mental. The Annales historians gradually abandoned the label, although they continued to cultivate the idea that mental operations and emotions have a history through the new labels of a “history of mentalities” and, more recently at the turn of the century, a “history of emotions.” While Meyerson and a few other psychologists kept using the “historical psychology” label, however, mainstream psychology remained quite oblivious to this historical focus. The greatest efforts made today among psychologists to think of our mental architecture in terms of transformation over time and space are probably to be found in the work of Kurt Danziger and Roger Smith.
Olwen Bedford and Kuang-Hui Yeh
Chinese indigenous psychology (Chinese IP) requires that the researchers’ theories, concepts, methods, tools, and results explicitly incorporate the structures and processes of the studied psychological and behavioral phenomena as embedded in their original context. Chinese IP is distinct from mainstream psychology in that it generates and promotes a different kind of psychological knowledge and because it is open with respect to research paradigm.
Chinese IP emerged in the mid-1970s in Taiwan. K. S. Yang is the key figure in its development. He recognized the disconnect between Western and Chinese ways of understanding human functioning and promoted Chinese IP as a way to address the particular problems encountered in Chinese societies. The broad variety of Chinese IP research can be roughly divided into three overlapping areas: general frameworks or approaches for conducting research on a variety of topics in Chinese societies, universal models of particular sociocultural concepts that may applied to any society, and investigation of concepts that have special meaning in Chinese societies, some of which adapt or bridge Western research with Chinese concepts. The ultimate goal of Chinese IP is to contribute to development of a human or global psychology, and Chinese IP researchers have proposed both bottom-up and top-down approaches to obtaining this goal. Chinese IP inherently questions the universality of mainstream psychology. This stance gives rise to numerous challenges for IP researchers including pressure from their own academic institutions to publish in high-impact journals that do not value indigenous research.
Scott O. Lilienfeld and Candice Basterfield
Evidence-based therapies stemmed from the movement toward evidence-based medicine, and later, evidence-based practice (EBP) in psychology and allied fields. EBP reflects a progressive historical shift from naïve empiricism, which is based on raw and untutored observations of patient change, to systematic empiricism, which refines and hones such observations with the aid of systematic research techniques. EBP traces its roots in part to the development of methods of randomization in the early 20th century. In American psychology, EBP has traditionally been conceptualized as a three-legged stool comprising high-quality treatment outcome evidence, clinical expertise, and patient preferences and values. The research leg of the stool is typically operationalized in terms of a hierarchy of evidentiary certainty, with randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses of such trials toward the apex. The most influential operationalization of the EBP research leg is the effort to identify empirically supported treatments, which are psychotherapies that have been demonstrated to work for specific psychological conditions. Still, EBP remains scientifically controversial in many quarters, and some critics have maintained that the research base underpinning it is less compelling than claimed by its proponents.
Vera Luckgei, Nora Ruck, and Thomas Slunecko
Feminist psychological knowledge production has flourished in the German-speaking countries since the late 1970s. But, in contrast to countries like the United States, Canada, or Great Britain, it only gained finite traction in the academy. During the late 1970s and 1980s, the so-called “project phase” of the second wave women’s movement saw the founding of counseling centers for women in Vienna and all over Austria. During the mid-1980s, students at the University of Vienna started recruiting feminist psychologists from the feminist counseling center Frauen beraten Frauen to teach courses on the psychology of women. From the mid-1980s until 2000, the Department of Psychology at the University of Vienna offered an unusually high number of courses in the psychology of women (up to ten seminars per semester and about 200 in total), turning the department into an unofficial and temporary teaching hub for feminist psychology. With 14 courses on the psychology of women, the academic year 1987/1988 marks the apogee of feminist psychological teaching by adjunct lecturers at the Department of Psychology. During the 1990s, it was again students who fought for and succeeded in having several guest professors in the psychology of women appointed at the Department of Psychology. This pinnacle period for the interrelation of feminist teaching and research saw not only the development of new didactic methods but also some continuity in the collaboration of a guest professor, adjunct lecturers, and students as well as a plethora of feminist psychological theses written by students.
Shauna Shapiro and Elli Weisbaum
Mindfulness practice and protocols—often referred to as mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs)—have become increasingly popular in every sector of society, including healthcare, education, business, and government. Due to this exponential growth, thoughtful reflection is needed to understand the implications of, and interactions between, the historical context of mindfulness (insights and traditions that have been cultivated over the past 25 centuries) and its recent history (the adaptation and applications within healthcare, therapeutic and modern culture, primarily since the 1980s).
Research has shown that MBIs have significant health benefits including decreased stress, insomnia, anxiety, and panic, along with enhancing personal well-being, perceptual sensitivity, processing speed, empathy, concentration, reaction time, motor skills, and cognitive performance including short- and long-term memory recall and academic performance. As with any adaptation, skillful decisions have to be made about what is included and excluded. Concerns and critiques have been raised by clinicians, researchers, and Buddhist scholars about the potential impact that the decontextualization of mindfulness from its original roots may have on the efficacy, content, focus, and delivery of MBIs. By honoring and reflecting on the insights, intentions, and work from both historical and contemporary perspectives of mindfulness, the field can support the continued development of effective, applicable, and accessible interventions and programs.