Theses Doctoral

The Impact of Selective Attention on Energy and its Implications for Health

Choi, Hanseung Simon

The aims of the current investigation are to (1) examine the directive mechanism of selective attention on energy as measured by body temperature and to (2) assess the clinical impact of a meditation practice that uses this directive mechanism of selective attention. Despite the recent surge of interest in Eastern contemplative and medicinal practices, there exists a large gap between teachings of such Eastern traditions and empirical research findings of psychology in the West. Specifically, Eastern thought has for millennia emphasized the role of attention or intent in directing energy within the body, and importantly, the role that this phenomenon has on mental and physical health.

Conversely, Western psychology has largely conceptualized attention as an unidirectional information-processing mechanism, not as an agent through which energy is directed. The present study contains two experiments that respectively incorporate a basic science approach to identify an alternative function of selective attention and an applied science approach to explore the clinical efficacy of a focused attention dantian (area in the lower abdomen) meditation practice compared to that of a standard Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) practice. Experiment 1 (N = 12) tested through an experimental design whether selective attention can function as a directive mechanism for energy by measuring bilateral hand temperatures.

Experiment 2 (N = 16) measured various health and psychological indices before and after a six-week meditation practice in either a dantian-focused method or an MBSR practice. Findings suggest that selective attention does in fact function as a directive mechanism for energy within the body and that the use of this method within the context of a dantian meditation practice improves aspects of mental health more efficaciously than an MBSR practice. This study ultimately seeks to interpret a traditional Eastern understanding of attention and its implications for health through the lens of empirical Western psychology.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Clinical Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Miller, Lisa Jane
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 1, 2023