Students Intelligence and Creativity Improved By Transcendental Meditation Technique
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Maharishi University of Management
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Students' Intelligence and Creativity Improved
By Transcendental Meditation Technique
Findings from Three Randomized Experiments
At a time when U.S. schools make you think of metal detectors, falling test scores and attention deficit disorder, imagine students closing their eyes to meditate for 15 minutes twice daily, and then, as a result, showing more intelligence and creativity, less anxiety, and increased alertness and ability to focus.
An article in the September/October issue of Intelligence reports on three randomized studies that found these results in students who learned the Transcendental Meditation® technique, an age-old practice for developing mental potential.
"We found increases in creativity and intelligence that you don't typically expect to see," said principal investigator and coauthor So Kam Tim of Hong Kong, who conducted the experiments to earn his doctoral degree in psychology at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. "Many researchers feel that it's not possible to significantly improve basic cognitive ability once a person reaches adolescence, but our findings challenge that theory."
Dr. So's research was designed to determine whether different meditation procedures and rest could affect several types of cognitive processes. "We compared the Transcendental Meditation technique, contemplative meditation and napping, which some believe produce similar effects," said Dr. So. "Our findings showed that these three have significantly different effects on cognitive function."
Significant improvement on seven measures of cognitive function
Dr. So used seven standardized tests to measure a wide range of cognitive, emotional and perceptual functions of 362 students participating in the three studies at schools in Taiwan. In one study, conducted at a private high school, 154 seniors (78 boys, 76 girls) from four classes were randomly assigned to the TM® program or to a napping group. In the second study at a national junior high school, 87 girls were randomized by class to either a TM program group or a no-treatment control group, and were also compared to 41 girls in a third class who learned contemplative meditation from the Chinese tradition. The third study consisted of 99 boys in two classes at a vocational training school who were randomly assigned by class to either a TM program group or no-treatment control.
The results of the three studies, which ranged from six months to one year, showed that taken together the TM program groups had significant improvement on all seven measurements compared to the no-treatment and napping control groups. Contemplative meditation showed a significant result in two categories, and napping had no effect.
"The TM technique had the unique effect of simultaneously improving all measures, indicating that it integrates many different brain functions," said Dr. So.
The greatest improvement in the TM program groups was seen on a creativity measure called Test for Creative Thinking-Drawing Production According to its developers, the test measures "whole brain creativity," which requires a balanced use of intellect and feelings.
Improvements in the TM program groups were also found in practical intelligence (Constructive Thinking Inventory), indicating increased nonintellectual abilities, such as optimism and the ability to work with others. Whereas IQ tests predict only academic success, the practical intelligence test predicts success in work, love, and social relationships. However, IQ also increased, as measured by the ability to reason in novel situations, called "fluid intelligence" (Culture Fair Intelligence Test). Increased IQ was also indicated by a purely cognitive measure called Inspection Time. "The Inspection Time result indicates improvement in basic aspects of intelligence, such as alertness and ability to focus, which are essential for learning," explained Dr. So.
Improvements were also found in "field independence," indicating growth in perceptual ability as well as inner-directedness, flexibility in seeing others' perspectives, and resistance to peer pressure (Group Embedded Figures Test).
Participants in the TM program groups were also significantly less anxious as measured by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, whereas the contemplation meditation group tended to show an increase on this measurement. Dr. So explained that an anxious mind is typically one that isn't capable of thinking clearly, so researchers on cognition consider it an important variable to study.
Results expand on studies on brain physiology
"These effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on cognitive processes expand on earlier studies which show how it affects brain physiology," said coauthor Dr. David Orme-Johnson, former chair of the psychology department at Maharishi University of Management, who was Dr. So's thesis advisor. "Research has found that the TM practice increases blood flow and EEG coherence in the frontal brain areas. This part of the brain integrates intentions, goals and emotions, as well as perceptual, motor and intellectual resources into focused thought and action. So, to see all these abilities increasing in a holistic way now in these studies in Taiwan is a very significant finding."
According to Dr. So, research has found that the Transcendental Meditation technique produces a "wakeful hypometabolic state" - where the body is resting deeply but the mind remains alert. "Scientists report that this is a unique state of mind and body, a fourth major state of consciousness, that's different from sleeping, dreaming or being awake. It's a fascinating new area of psychology," said Dr. So.
Reference: Intelligence (September/October 2001), Vol. 29/5, pp. 419-440.
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