Popular Conceptions of Mindfulness: Awareness and Emotional Control

Peter F. Hitchcock, Lindsay M. Martin, Laura Fischer, Stephanie Marando-Blanck, James D. Herbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mindfulness has become a fixture of both clinical treatment and popular culture. Much research and theoretical scholarship have operationalized “mindfulness” as clinicians use the term, yet no research has examined popular (i.e., lay) conceptions of mindfulness. Mindfulness trainings and interventions are now widely offered on college campuses. Thus, as a starting point for assessing lay conceptions of the construct, we examined how undergraduate college students at an urban university (N = 361) conceptualize mindfulness. In open-ended responses, participants linked mindfulness to awareness of external objects, internal sensations, or being in the present moment. When rating sentences on how well they represented mindfulness, participants strongly associated mindfulness with controlling emotions. In both the open-ended and sentence stem responses, mindfulness was rarely associated with psychological acceptance, which is notable because of the importance of acceptance in mindfulness-based clinical treatments. Implications and future directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)940-949
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • College students
  • Conceptions of mindfulness
  • Laypersons
  • Mindfulness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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