I have received an apt correction regarding a Brown University study that I reviewed earlier, regarding meditation

Hal Roth of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, has posted the following comment at a previous post:

I am a co-author of the above study.

The Press summary of the study is seriously erroneous and incredibly

The Study did NOT conclude that men were not affected by studying mindfulness techniques and that they should, instead, study moving meditations. That is totally false.

Both the young men and young women in the study showed marked improvements in their ability to focus their attention; in other words in their abilities to concentrate as a result of taking a 12 week university course of academic study of contemplative texts and relevant contemplative practices. BTW there were at least 4 different courses included in this study over 4 years.

Where they differed was in how their emotional reactivity was affected. Young women showed marked improvements in reduced self criticism and improvements in negative affect. Young men did not demonstrate the same level of improvement.

That’s it. The Press has substantially misrepresented this study. Probably because they only quickly read a summary on the Brown University website and didn’t carefully read it nor read the actual article. That is seriously irresponsible.

Thanks to Mr. Pill for calling attention to problems in the Press reports of our study.


Comment from Jaan Pill of Toronto

The published research article (as distinguished from the Press summary) can be accessed here.

I much appreciate the message from Hal Roth.

I have deleted the link to the Brown University article. I have also deleted my own response to the Brown University article, taking into account the comment from Hal Roth. From time to time, I encounter situations such as this one. I am delighted to have the opportunity to make such a correction. As I have noted elsewhere at this website, based on my personal experience with the practice of mindfulness, I have a strong interest in research related to mindfulness meditation, and in how such research is represented in Press accounts.

Additional comment from Hal Roth of Brown University

[The article under discussion can be accessed here.]

Hal Roth notes, with regard to the article:

It’s technical but still understandable to nonspecialists. Please look closely at Table 1: it shows results from three major self-reporting studies, the PANAS (measures affect), the FFMQ (measures mindfulness), and the Self Compassion SCS Scale.

Just look at the differences between Baseline and Exit Scores and you can see the basic data. Both women and men improve in almost all measures in all three tests (with one exception); but women improve more than men in all tests. Not that men do not improve.

The one exception is PANAS negative affect, in which young men get very slightly worse (but apparently not really significantly so) and young women improve. Otherwise men always improve in all measured data; just not as much as the women.

Note also the asterisks, which indicate women’s most notable improvements. Please also note that baselines are different for each item measured in these tests.


Hal Roth spent many years in Toronto in grad school

Harold D. Roth, Professor of Religious Studies, Director, Brown Contemplative Studies Concentration, adds: “I spent many years [in Toronto] in grad school and have a real fondness for the city.”

As part of his email signature, Hal Roth features the following quote:

…Where neither It nor Other finds its opposite is called the axis of the Way. Once the Axis is found at the center of the circle, there is no limit to responding with either, on the one hand no limit to what is It; on the other hand no limit to what is “not It.” Therefore I say: “the best means is illumination….”

“The Sorting That Evens Things Out” (the collected works of Zhuangzi; 4th century BCE)


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