Mindfulness Passes the Stress Test: Attenuation of Behavioral Markers of Mind Wandering During Acute Stress

Frederikke Piil, Johanne Lundager Axelsen, Walter Staiano, Ulrich Kirk

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Objective: Recent studies illustrate that lapses of attention and mind wandering severely hinder performance on tasks which require cognitive function during acute stress. Recent studies provide support that mindfulness training enables stress-reduction and enhancement of cognitive control. However, it is not yet clear if mindfulness can mediate the impact of acute stress on cognitive performance. Because of this, the main aim of this study was to clarify if mindfulness can successfully mediate the relationship between cognitive performance and stress. Method: The sample consisted of staff and students from a local university (N = 48), where 26 practiced mindfulness for 4 weeks, while the remaining 22 participants practiced NeuroNation as an active control training. We measured mind wandering at baseline across the two groups and after completion of the interventions (30 days) using the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) and administered questionnaires regarding mindfulness and stress. The acute stressful state was achieved using the cold pressor test (CPT). Results: The mindfulness intervention significantly uncoupled the relationship between cognitive performance and acute stress, as well as enhanced self-reported dispositional mindfulness. These changes were not present in the active control group. Conclusion: The implications of these findings suggest that mindfulness may be employed as way to dampen the impact of acute stressors on cognitive performance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cognitive Enhancement
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)155-163
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Cold pressor task
  • Mind wandering
  • Mindfulness
  • Stress


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