Effect of Mindfulness on Attention, Learning and Memory

05 Apr 2018

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Chapter-3

METHOD

The present study aims to investigate the effect of mindfulness on attention, learning and memory among adolescents. Present study is of interventional nature, as it tries to manage and maintain the attention, learning and memory. The present chapter gives a detailed account of the research method used to carry out the study. The description of various methodological aspects has been presented under various headings:

  • Sample
  • Measuring Instruments
  • Administration of Test
  • Interventional Procedure
  • Scoring
  • Statistical Analyses

3.1 Sample:

The sample for the present study was drawn from various school students of Hisar district. A total of 600 subjects were drawn by using the technique of cluster sampling. It was ensured that equal numbers of male and female subjects are sampled for the study. After the screening of 600 subjects, 60 subjects were chosen for intervention having low level of attention, learning and memory. The age of subjects ranged between 13 to 16 years.

3.2 Measuring Instruments:

The measures used in the study were selected in accordance with the objectives of the study. The measures used in the study are related to both verbal and non-verbal test which were selected to assess the key variables of the study such as attention, learning and memory. The brief description of the measures used in the study is as under:

A). Standard Progressive Matrices (Raven, Court and Raven, 1996)

B). The d2 attention test ( Brickenkamp & Zillmer, 1998)

C). Serial Learning (Janbandhu & Deshmukh, 1985)

D). Digit span memory test from Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children III (Weschler, 1992)

3.2.1 Standard Progressive Matrices:

SPM is a non verbal assessment tool which was originated by Raven, Court and Raven, (1996) for the measurement of Intelligence. It consists of 60 diagrammatic puzzles which are divided into five sets (A, B, C, D, and E) of 12 items each. Each puzzle has a part missing and in it subject’s task is to identify the missing part of the diagram from several alternatives. All subjects are given exactly the same series of problems and asked to work at their own speed. It is an untimed capacity test and the total score provides an index of intellectual capacity. Kuhnlein et al. found a split-half reliability of .94 in German sample of psychiatric patient. Stinissen (1956) & Swinnes (1958) have reported correlations of .94 & .95 respectively of group of Belgian school children while Barahemi (1974) found the range from .89 to .95. Reliable correlation of SPM with the Binet & Weschler scales range from .54 to .86 (Raven, 1948; Taibl, 1951; Sinha, 1951; Borratt, 1956). Rogers & Holmes (1978) demonstrated SPM & WISC – R correlations range from .83 to .92.

3.2.2 The d2 Attention test:

The d2 attention test has been developed by Brickenkamp & Zillmer (1998) to measure the selective attention and mind concentration in response to the discrimination of similar visual stimuli while selectively orient to relevant aspects in task and ignoring other irrelevant ones as well as doing so quickly and accurately. This test includes only one form which can be administered either individually or in group. Possible age range of this test is from 9 to 60 years. It comprised 14 lines with 47 characters for a total of 658 items. These contain characters “d” and “p” with one to four little dashes set either individually or in pairs above or below each letter. The subjects need to identify and cross out all “d’s” with two dashes. The d’s” with two dashes considered as the relevant elements in this test whereas the remaining combinations (the “p’s” with or without dashes and the “d’s” with one or no dash) are considered as irrelevant elements since they should not be crossed out. The subject is permitted 20 seconds for each line. The internal stability of test proved to be very high (r>.90) and test retest reliability also demonstrated satisfactory (r >.70). Many researches support the multiple clinical and empirical applications of the d2 test. For e.g. d2 test has been used in study of the remediation of attention deficits (Penkman, 2004), the neuropsychological markers of schizophrenia in adolescents (Stolz-Born, Heinrich, Kornhuber, & Born, 1992; Klemm, Schmidt, Knappe, & Blanz, 2006), the neuropsychological effects of irradiation for childhood leukemia (Langer et al., 2002).

3.2.3 Serial Learning

Serial Learning is an experimental procedure developed by Janbandhu and Deshmukh (1985). This is an experiment in learning which includes a list of 10 nonsense syllables (CVC trigrams). In this experiment firstly subjects were show the list of CVC combination and asked to pronounce the syllable that would follow the preceding one. In it subject recalls the list in serial order. In this experiment, first trial is considered as a learning trial, consist ‘no responses’. From the second trial onward the trials taken by subjects are noted down. The subjects were given trials till the time they were not able to recall complete list in serial order. The more the number of the trials taken by subjects, the more the time subjects will take to learn and recall which indicates slow learning.

3.2.4 Digits span memory:

Digits span memory test is the subtest of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children III by Weschler (1992). This subtest includes two parts a) digit forward and b) digit backward items. In it the researcher reads a series of numbers to the subject. In first part subject’s task is to listen and then recall these numbers correctly in sequence order as spoken by researchers. In second part, the subjects listen to a sequence of number and recall them in reverse order (Digit backward). The lengths of digit sequences begin with 2 digits, and two trials are given at each increasing list length. In both parts length of digit sequences increases as child responds correctly. Maximum scores of digit forward are 16 and of digit backward are 14. The average split- half reliability coefficient across all age group for digit span was .90 with an average standard error of measurement of .94. Digit span exhibited moderate criterion validity when correlated with the Stanford – Binet IV composite score (r = .48) and Stanford – Binet IV short term memory (r =.52) (Weschler, 1997).

3.3 Administration of tests:

The subjects were administered above described tests namely the standard progressive matrices, the d2 attention test, serial learning and digit span memory test. The subjects were approached directly in their institutions for data collection. They were tested in small groups ranging from 10 to 15 subjects or individually after obtaining their willingness to participate in the study.

The general testing conditions were satisfactory and atmosphere was uniform all through. Subjects were encouraged to respond in a realistic way without rumination on all tests too much. A good rapport was established with them in order to get real position on the measuring instruments. They were told about the importance of the study and that the data collected will not be made public, rather confidentiality of their responses will be maintained. Subjects were informed that their position on different behavioral measures would be intimated to them, if they desire so. Though there was no time limit, subjects were asked to complete the tests as early as possible. They generally completed serial learning in 15 to 30 minutes, intelligence in 20 to 30 minutes, digit span in 10 to 20 minutes and the d2 test is a timed test in which 20 seconds per line are allowed. The instructions and administration procedures were same for all the subjects, and in accordance with described by the respective test authors.

3.4 Interventional procedure

Before the beginning of intervention, the sample screening was done on a sample of 600 students with the help of standard progressive matrices by Raven , Court and Raven (1996), the d2 attention test by Brickenkamp & Zillmer, (1998), serial learning by Janbandhu and Deshmukh (1985) and digit span memory test for the assessment of memory by Weschler (1992). In present research intelligence test has been used as a control variable to know about the normal IQ of the subject. These pretest tools were administered on students to measure the levels of decided dependent variables. Students having low score in attention, learning and memory were administered the mindfulness procedure for the period of 6 months. After 6 month’s training program, post testing was done of all three variables i.e. attention, learning and memory.

Before Mindfulness practice, an orientation programme for fifteen days has been designed for subject with the help of breathing exercises and imagery techniques. At initial level, students were instructed to direct their attention towards the things present in their environment. Firstly they were instructed to notice whatever sounds they hear from the external environment and they observed, for example, sound of footsteps of passing person outside the room, ringing of bell, chirping of birds, any type of vehicle sound, sound of bench, noise of door etc. This procedure has been continued for a week for approx. 30-40 minutes per day. After that, students were asked to observe the movements of the children sitting around them, like sound of scrapping, sound of yawning, coughing. This procedure was also continued for seven days. In next session, with closed eyes they were asked to focus the attention on their own actions for instance, shaking of body, movement of hands, changing of body position etc.

After an orientation program, mindfulness training has been received by the students. Mindfulness training focus on various aspects such as external environment, experience of the body, and attention to thoughts, feelings, mind and meditation exercise. The following are the some exercises which were adopted by subjects during 6 month interventional program.

  1. Mindfulness of the Environment: At initial level, Mindfulness Training directs children attention to things in their environment. The following two exercises are introduced in this section.
  1. Awareness of objects: In first exercise, children were shown an object (for e.g. clock, scenery) and asked to draw it. They were educated to spend time looking at the object and paying attention to smaller and smaller detail. Next day, same procedure was done. They were instructed to compare the drawings and the subjects were also asked to recognize the missing details from the first drawing that they memorized in the second. This procedure was followed for seven days for 30-40 minutes approximately each day.
  1. Awareness of Self in the Environment: In the second exercise of mindfulness training subjects were asked to pay their attention to themselves or experiences in the environment. This session was conducted in evening in which subjects were instructed to write down step by step what they did from morning to evening. They repeated this exercise for seven days and paid attention to their whole day activities and added new things from the previous one.
  1. Mindfulness of the Body: After the children awareness of the environment, the next exercise was to focus on their body awareness. This session follows three steps:
  1. Attending the senses: The Raisin meditation: This step involves being aware of one’s own experience of an object. For example, subjects were given 3 raisins and instructed to bring to their attention one raisin and observe that carefully as if they had never seen that before. They were asked to observe the thoughts and feelings regarding raisin while looking at it. After that they were asked to smell the raisin, and put it into their mouth, chew that slowly and feel the actual taste. They were instructed to consciously experience their all thoughts, feelings, smell and taste of the raisin. Later, they were instructed to repeat the same procedure with second raisin and considering it as the first raisin which they have ever seen. Same procedure was followed with third raisin. This exercise was also continued for seven days with another small food items such as popcorn, almonds and chocolate etc.
  2. Awareness of Movement: In this step children were asked to pay attention to their own body while interacting with environment. Children were instructed to move around the room and to become aware of each movement of their body posture e .g. feeling the movement of thigh muscles, foot coming off the floor and setting it back down, movement of hands and arms were also noticed that they were moving slowly or faster. They were also instructed that if their thoughts begin to wander from their body and their moving experience, they should note it and return their attention to a part of their body.
  3. Meditation on the Breath: This 10 days exercise begins with a simple practice of breathing exercise. In this step subjects were asked to notice the movement of their breath in all parts of their body (lungs, stomach, ribs, chest, and shoulder). They were asked to be aware of the natural rhythm of the breath, how cool air enters in the nose and warm air is exhaled. Later on, subjects were instructed to count how many breath they inhaled. One breathes equals one inhalation plus an exhalation. They were told to avoid distracting thoughts and only to pay attention to their breath. This exercise focuses on the current breath and effectively enhances the subject’s awareness on the present moment.
  1. Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness meditation focused on the present moment, while being aware of the internal sensation, thoughts and feelings. This mindfulness meditation process follows under headings:
  1. Attending to the Thinking Process: The purpose of this exercise is to bring subject’s awareness to their thoughts and feelings. Children become aware that how they are the producers of their own thoughts. They were instructed to close their eyes and wonder what their next thought is going to be so that they become very alert and wait for the next thought. This exercise has been continued for 10 days.
  2. Meditation on the Bubble: Subjects were instructed to observe their thoughts, release them and let them go without any judgement. For this, subjects continued the meditation for a few minutes in silence. After that they were asked to envision the bubble which slowly rising up in front of them. They were told to visualize as if each bubble contains thoughts, feelings and perception. They were asked to notice the first bubble rising up and observe every thought slowly floating away with bubble. The procedure was same with each bubble. Now they were asked to observe that their mind goes blank, and then visualise the bubble rising up with “blank” inside and slowly floats away. Another example like imagination of clouds was also included. This procedure has been continued for 10 days.
  3. Visualization Meditation: Finding a safe haven: This exercise is related to visualization in which subjects were instructed to imagine a place that they feel comfortable, safe and relaxing. It might be beach, lake, temple and their own bed. Slowly the place becoming clearer to them. They were asked to look at the surrounding of that place, walk around the place. They were asked to stay focused on that place, look closer at certain things and observed their own feelings. If they found that their thoughts were wandering, they were asked to observe them, and then focus on bringing the image of their place back into focus in front of them. When they feel relaxed, can open their eyes.

3.5 Scoring:

In Standard Progressive Matrices calculations are based on raw scores. Each of the 60 items were scored as 0 for incorrected or 1 for corrected. Total score is converted into percentile score which translated into IQ respectively according to norms table. The d2 attention was scored with the help of two scoring keys 1 and 2 that are placed in the upper and lower lines so that the number is read off on the scale. The resulting score are TN i.e. total number of elements tried on the 14 lines. Scoring Keys 1 computed E1 which is number of mistakes due to omission and scoring key 2 counted errors of commission. Then numbers of errors are added for each column (E = E1 + E2).For overall performance of D2 attention test; firstly, TN-E has been measured i.e. resulted from subtracting the number of errors (E) from the total numbers of characters processed and secondly, CP i.e. concentration performance which is derived by subtracting the type 2 errors (E2) from the number of correctly crossed out relevant items has been calculated. Standard Scores and percentile ranks can be determined by the raw scores from the appropriate norms table. In serial learning experiment, total numbers of trials were noted. In digit span memory test one score has been given to each correctly repeated digit forward items and digit backward items and then final score is total numbers of trials of both digit forward items and digit backward items.

3.6 Analyses of data

The obtained data were subjected to various statistical analyses. Although analyses most pertinent to the objectives of the study are descriptive statistics, correlation, paired t test and independent t test. Correlations among all pairs of variable were computed through Pearson Product Moment method. Independent t-test was run to examine the difference between boys and girls in attention, learning and memory and paired t test computed to examine the effect of mindfulness on attention, learning and memory.



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