Sunday, May 13, 2018

Yoga and meditation are highly popular. Purportedly, they foster well-being by “quieting the ego” or, more specifically, curtailing self-enhancement.We observed that, instead, they boost self-enhancement

Gebauer, Jochen, Nehrlich, A.D., Stahlberg, D., Sedikides, Constantine, Hackenschmidt, D, Schick, D, Stegmaie, C A, Windfelder, C. C, Bruk, A and Mander, J V (2018) Mind-body practices and the self: yoga and meditation do not quiet the ego, but instead boost self-enhancement. Psychological Science, 1-22. (In Press). https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/420273

Abstract: Mind-body practices enjoy immense public and scientific interest. Yoga and meditation are highly popular. Purportedly, they foster well-being by “quieting the ego” or, more specifically, curtailing self-enhancement. However, this ego-quieting effect contradicts an apparent psychological universal, the self-centrality principle. According to this principle, practicing any skill renders it self-central, and self-centrality breeds self-enhancement. We examined those opposing predictions in the first tests of mind-body practices’ self-enhancement effects. Experiment 1 followed 93 yoga students over 15 weeks, assessing self-centrality and self-enhancement after yoga practice (yoga condition, n = 246) and without practice (control condition, n = 231). Experiment 2 followed 162 meditators over 4 weeks (meditation condition: n = 246; control condition: n = 245). Self-enhancement was higher in the yoga (Experiment 1) and meditation (Experiment 2) conditions, and those effects were mediated by greater self-centrality. Additionally, greater self-enhancement mediated mind-body practices’ well-being benefits. Evidently, neither yoga nor meditation quiet the ego; instead, they boost self-enhancement.

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Supplemental

S1. We assessed agentic narcissism with the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin & Terry, 1988), the most widely used measure of agentic narcissism (Gebauer, Sedikides, Verplanken, & Holland, 2012). We administered a 4-item short-form, analogous to our assessment of communal narcissism (see Experiment 1’s Method section in the main text). We selected items with a good item-total correlation, adequate content-breadth, and high face-validity. The four items were: “I like having authority over people,” “I am more capable than other people,” “I think I am a special person,” and “I like to be the center of attention” (1=does not apply at all, 7=applies completely) (.63≤ɑs≤.77, ɑ average=.71). We intermixed items assessing agentic and communal narcissism.
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S2. In Experiment 1, we assessed self-centrality and self-enhancement with the following items.

Self-centrality: “Executing correctly the asanas (yoga positions) that we were taught is...,” “Focusing mindfully on the exercises across the whole yoga class is...,” “Holding the asanas (yoga positions) as long as we were taught is...,” and “Integrating the content taught in the yoga class into my everyday life is...” (1=not at all central to me, 11=central to me).

Better-than-average: “In comparison to the average participant of my yoga class, my ability to execute correctly the asanas (yoga positions) that we were taught is...,” “In comparison to the average participant of my yoga class, my ability to focus mindfully on the exercises across the whole yoga class is...,” “In comparison to the average participant of my yoga class, my ability to hold the asanas (yoga positions) as long as we were taught is...,” and “In comparison to the average participant of my yoga class, my ability to integrate the content taught in the yoga class into my everyday life is...” The rating-scale ranged from 1 (well below average) via 6 (average) to 11 (well above average).

Communal narcissism: “I have a very positive influence on others,” “I will be well known for the good deeds I will have done,” “I am the most caring person in my social surrounding,” and “I am going to bring peace and justice to the world” (1=does not apply at all, 7=applies completely).

Self-esteem: “At the moment, I have high self-esteem” (1=does not apply at all, 7=applies completely).
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S7. In Experiment 2, we assessed self-centrality, self-enhancement, and well-being with the following items.

Self-centrality: The items started with the stem “How central is it for you...” and continued as follows: “...to be a loving person?,” “...to be free from hatred?,” “...to be a kindhearted person?,” “...to be free from greed?,” “...to be a caring person?,” “...to be free from bias?,” “...to be an understanding person?,” “...to be free from envy?,” “...to be a helpful person?,” “...to be free from egotism?” (1=not at all central me, 81=very central to me).

Better-than-average: The items started with the stem “In comparison to the average participant of this study,...” and continued as follows: “...I am a loving person,” “...I am free from hatred,” “...I am a kindhearted person,” “...I am free from greed,” “...I am a caring person,” “...I am free from bias,” “...I am an understanding person,” “...I am free from envy,” “...I am a helpful person,” “...I am free from egotism” (1=very much below average, 81=very much above average).

Communal narcissism: We used the full 16-item Communal Narcissism Inventory, which can be found in Gebauer et al. (2012).

Self-esteem: We used the full 10-item Self-Esteem Scale, which can be found in Rosenberg (1965).

Hedonic well-being: We used the following nine items to assess hedonic well-being’s affective component. “I am happy,” “I am anxious” (reverse-coded), “I feel satisfied,” “I am depressed” (reverse-coded), “I feel positive,” “I am frustrated” (reverse-coded), “I am cheerful,” “I am upset” (reverse-coded), and “I feel blue” (reverse-coded). We used the full 5-item Satisfaction with Life Scale to assess hedonic well-being’s cognitive component (1=absolutely wrong, 81=absolutely right), and the items of that scale can be found in Diener, Emmons, Larsen, and Griffin (1985).

Eudemonic well-being: “I judge myself by what I think is important, not by the values of what others think is important,” “The demands of everyday life often get me down,” “For me, life has been a continuous process of learning, changing, and growth,” “Maintaining close relationships has been difficult and frustrating for me,” “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them,” “In many ways, I feel disappointed about my achievements in life,” “I tend to be influenced by people with strong opinions,” “In general, I feel I am in charge of the situation in which I live,” “I gave up trying to make big improvements or changes in my life a long time ago,” “People would describe me as a giving person, willing to share my time with others,” “I sometimes feel as if I’ve done all there is to do in life,” “I like most aspects of my personality” (1=absolutely wrong, 81=absolutely right).

Experiment 2 contained two additional dependent variables. We included them for a different project, and they are irrelevant to the present article (i.e., they did not tap into self-centrality, self-enhancement, or well-being). One measure was Neff’s (2003) Self-Compassion Scale in its 6-item short-form (Dyllick-Brenzinger, 2010). The other measure contained 10 vignettes. Each briefly described an ambiguous behavior that can be interpreted as a display of weakness or strength. For example, one vignette read: “If I am the first to apologize after a fight with my relationship partner, I display...” (1=weakness, 81=strength). Experiment 2 was the first study to administer this newly devised measure.
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S10. Parallel to Experiment 1 (see S5), we tested the alternative explanation that the findings are driven by meditation beginners, who may have not yet acquired the necessary experience and skill for meditation to unfold its ego-quieting effect. Hence, we examined the cross-level interactions between meditation (vs. control) expertise (i.e., years of practice) on self-centrality and on self-enhancement (g-factor). Expertise neither moderated the meditation effect on self-centrality, B=-.05, 95% CI [-.16, .05], SE=.05, t=-1.00, nor the meditation effect on self-enhancement, B=.001, 95% CI [-.09, .09], SE=.05, t=0.03. Once again, the results clearly favor the SCP-universal hypothesis over its alternative explanation.

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