Being very mindful – defined as a state of presence that includes being attuned to stimuli in the present moment – may inhibit the development of bad habits.
However, mindfulness may inhibit the development of good habits too.
Georgetown University researchers found, when testing who would do best on a task to find patterns among a bunch of dots, that participants low on the mindfulness scale did much better on this test of implicit learning, the kind of learning that occurs without awareness.
The researchers found that people reporting low on the mindfulness scale tended to learn more. Their reaction times were quicker in targeting events that occurred more often within a context of preceding events than those that occurred less often.
“The very fact of paying too much attention or being too aware of stimuli coming up in these tests might actually inhibit implicit learning,” the study’s lead author, Chelsea Stillman, says. “That suggests that mindfulness may help prevent formation of automatic habits – which is done through implicit learning – because a mindful person is aware of what they are doing.”