Science University Research Symposium (SURS)

Meditation's Effect on Physiological Response to Fear

Publication Date

Fall 2023


Sciences and Mathematics, College of


Psychological Science, Department of

SURS Faculty Advisor

Dr. Schoenfeld

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


Research in mindfulness meditation has rapidly grown over the last few years and has proven inconclusive as to whether the practice has a measurable effect on fear response. This study examined the effects of mindfulness meditation on physiological response to fear based on a very short mindfulness exercise and a short video inducing a fear response in the participant. Our hypothesis was that the mindfulness meditation exercise would make the fear response less intense and that having higher trait anxiety would correlate to a more intense fear response. Participants were assigned to either a control group where they watched a calming video with no meditative component, or the experimental group where they would watch and participate in the mindfulness meditation exercise before watching the frightening video. We measured the Heart Rate of participants through both videos with a pulse plethysmograph (PPG). The study also aimed to examine the effects of trait anxiety on the increase in heart rate experienced after the frightening video is presented. Participants all took an abbreviated version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) (Spielberger et. al., 1983) before watching the videos to determine their trait anxiety. Results suggest that mindfulness meditation made no significant difference from the control based on the PPG readings.

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