Toward better measurement

In the earlier studies on the effects of meditation, many different measurements have been used, often indiscriminately. A theory-guided use of specific measurements and methods is promising for furthering our understanding of meditation along with innovation in research. Conventional measurements such as questionnaires reach their limits in meditation research, especially if one wants to measure hitherto neglected effects among experienced meditators that are expected to arise with increasing practice. Here, one needs custom-tailored kinds of measurement that will often be of a qualitative nature. However, there are already several questionnaires that have been developed from a Buddhist or Hindu theoretical background and might prove to be useful in meditation research. We give a short overview of these instruments and then turn to some suggestions for how measurement could be custom-tailored to meditation research.

Conventional measurement

Most meditation techniques come from a Hindu or Buddhist context and at least some of the theoretical concepts can be made measurable. In particular, there have been several attempts to develop questionnaires that measure aspects of personality described in Hindu thought systems, the three gunas. There have also been several measures of a central concept in Buddhist practice: Mindfulness. In addition, Buddhism also suggests a “personality theory” that can be operationalized using conventional questionnaire techniques.

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