Commitment of Researchers on the TM technique to Science
The Issue: Are Researchers of the Transcendental Meditation Program Committed to the Scientific Method?
The Evidence: The research on the Transcendental Meditation program has been published in over 160 peer-reviewed journals and books. The research has been conducted at over 200 universities and research institutions in 34 countries. Doctoral dissertations on the Transcendental Meditation program have been carried out at 24 independent universities not affiliated with any of the TM organizations. Over the last 35 years the research has also been presented and discussed at numerous professional conferences.
For lists of journals, universities, countries, and annotated bibliographies, see Research Publications.
The Issue: Is Maharishi University of Management Committed to the Scientific Method?
The Evidence: There have been several policies and practices in place at Maharishi University of Management (M.U.M., formerly Maharishi International University) to insure research objectivity. These include:
Publication in Peer-Reviewed Journals
Participations in Professional Organizations and Conferences
Outside Committee Members for Ph.D. Dissertations
Outside Co-authors on Research Reports
Blind Data Collection at Outside Universities or Medical Centers
Independent Oversight of the Research Process
Independent Replication of Results
Use of Public Data Sources
Prediction of Outcomes in Advance of the Experiments
Replies to Critics in the Published Literature
Publication of “Negative” Findings: John Kesterson’s Paper
Replies to Allegations that the University Suppresses Negative Research: Dennis Roark and Anthony Denaro
A Personal View
Also see Academic Recognition of Maharishi University of Management
Publication in Peer-Reviewed Journals. The Maharishi University of Management faculty have an excellent record of hundreds of publications in peer-reviewed journals.
Search Google Scholar on key science faculty.
Charles N. Alexander, Ph.D.
Michael C. Dillbeck, Ph.D.
John S. Hagelin, Ph.D.
David W. Orme-Johnson, Ph.D.
Robert H. Schneider, M.D.
Fred T. Travis, Ph.D.
Robert Keith Wallace, Ph.D.
Participations in Professional Organizations and Conferences. The Maharishi University of Management faculty belong to the appropriate professional organizations for their fields and have actively participated in annual professional conferences since the beginning of the university. The faculty have also served as editors and reviewer's or peer-reviewed journals.
Some examples of professional organizations that the faculties have belonged include:
American Political Science Association;
American Psychological Association;
American Statistical Association;
Iowa Academy of Science;
Midwest Management Society;
Society for Neuroscience;
Society for Psychophysiological Research.
Examples of journals that the faculty have served as reviewers for include Physiology and Behavior, Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing, Biological Psychology, Psychophysiology, and Psychological Bulletin.
In addition, the faculty have given numerous invited talks at professional conferences, including key-note addresses, and have served on NIH technology assessment conferences and grant review boards.
Outside Committee Members for Ph.D. Dissertations. The explicit policy of the Ph.D. programs at Maharishi University of Management has always been that every committee for the Ph.D. doctoral thesis should have at least one member from an outside university. This is to provide additional expertise in the fields of specialization of the dissertation research, to make available other points of view, and to insure objectivity. The following is part of the Dissertation Manual that every graduate student gets, which appears in the university bulletin, 2005-2006.
This committee, formed by each doctoral student, should have at least four members including: the thesis advisor, two other faculty members, and one faculty member from another university or research institution. The membership...” ( p. 237 of 2005-2006 M.U.M. Bulletin).
Outside Co-authors on Research Reports. Most of the major research publications from Maharishi University of Management have been collaborations, with researchers and co-authors from other universities, who have no affiliation with M.U.M. or the TM organization.
Examples of outside co-authors.
Dr. Ellen Langer, Harvard University.
Alexander, C. N.; Langer, E. J.; Newman, R. I.; Chandler, H. M.; and Davies, J.L. Transcendental Meditation, mindfulness, and longevity: an experimental study with the elderly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57(6): 950–964, 1989.
Findings: Benefits for the elderly from TM practice, demonstrating slowing of aging: increased longevity; increased cognitive flexibility (including increased learning ability and greater perceptual flexibility); increased word fluency; improvements in self-reported measures of behavioral flexibility and aging; greater sense of well-being; improved mental health; reduction of blood pressure to more ideal levels.
Dr. Frank Staggers, West Oakland Health Center and Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic
Schnieder, R. H.; Staggers, F., Alexander, C. N.; Sheppard, W., Rainforth, M, Kondwani, K., Smith, S., King, C.G. A randomized controlled trial of stress reduction of hypertension in older African Americans. Hypertension 26:5, 1995.
Findings: Reduction of high blood pressure after 3-months of TM practice, both systolic and diastolic, greater than progressive muscle relaxation or diet exercise control.
Dr. Hector Myers, Biobehavioral Research Center, and Dr. Robert Cook, Department of Radiology, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science at Los Angeles and the University of California at Los Angeles UCLA (HM).
Castillo-Richmond, A., Schneider, R. H., Alexander, C. N., Cook, R., Myers, H., Nidich, S., et al. (2000). Effects of stress reduction on carotid atherosclerosis in hypertensive African Americans. Stroke, 31, 568-573.
Findings: Decreased carotid arterial sclerosis in elderly hypertensive African Americans practicing the TM technique compared to a health education control group.
Dr. Frank A. Treiber, Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, Medical College of Georgia and Harry Davis, Office of Biostatistics, Medical College of Georgia.
Barnes, V. A., Treiber, F. A., & Davis, H. (2001). Impact of Transcendental Meditation on cardiovascular function at rest and during acute stress in adolescents with high normal blood pressure. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 51, 597-605.
Findings: The TM group exhibited decreases in resting SBP from pre-to post-intervention, compared to the control group. The TM group exhibited greater decreases from pre-to post-intervention in SBP, HR, and cardiac output reactivity to a simulated car driving stress or, and in SBP reactivity to a social stress or interview.
Also see nine other collaborative research papers co-authored by Drs. Barnes and Treiber, listed in 219 research publications on TM since 1990.
Blind Data Collection at Outside Universities or Medical Centers. The data were collected blind at outside universities and medical centers for the research collaboration cited above, as well as for many other research projects.
Independent Oversight of the Research Process. Over the last 20 years, the Maharishi University of Management has received more than $20 million in funding from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The competition for federal research funds is intense and proposals are subject to a high degree of scrutiny. Large projects funded by the National Institutes of Health are also subject to continued scrutiny by "Data Safety Monitoring Boards," consisting of independent researchers appointed by the government to assure the quality of the data collection procedures and research methods. Maharishi University of Management has had many such visits throughout its history and has always received excellent ratings of its research process.
Independent Replication of Results. Many of the major findings of the faculty of Maharishi University of Management have been replications of earlier findings of researchers at other universities. In other cases, researchers at other universities have replicated the findings of MIU/MUM researchers.
Example: Early studies reporting that the Transcendental Meditation program reduces blood pressure (BP) in mild and moderate hypertensives were carried out at Harvard Medical School , Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago , College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Cardiovascular Center , and Medical College of Allahabad, India . These studies used multiple baseline measures to control for adaptation effects and examined hypertensive adults. The group means at baseline of the studies (systolic (SBP) over diastolic (DBP)) ranged from 150/94 mm Hg  to 157/102 mm Hg . These studies [1-4] found that after a mean of 6.1 months of TM practice, SBP decreased by a mean of -12.6 mm Hg and DBP decreased a mean of –8.8 mm Hg. These reductions in blood pressure are comparable to the best antihypertensive drugs. The more recent larger and better-controlled randomized controlled trials conducted by faculty of MUM, in collaboration with researchers from outside universities [5-11] have confirmed these early findings that TM has a beneficial effect of BP.
1. Benson H, Wallace RK. Decreased blood pressure in hypertensive subjects who practiced meditation. Circulation 1972; 45 & 46:516.
2. Simon DB, Oparil S, Kimball CP. The Transcendental Meditation program and essential hypertension. In: Orme-Johnson DW, Farrow JT (editors): Scientific Research on the Transcendental Meditation Program, Collected Papers, Vol. 1. Rheinweiler, West Germany, MERU Press; 1977, 268-269.
3. Blackwell B, Hanenson IB, Bloomfield SS, Magenheim HG, Nidich SI, Gartside P. Effects of Transcendental Meditation on blood pressure: a controlled pilot experiment. Psychosom Med 1975; 37:86.
4. Agarwal BL, Kharbanda A. Effect of transcendental meditation on mild and moderate hypertension. J Assoc Physicians India 1981; 29:591-6.
5. Alexander CN, Langer EJ, Newman RI, Chandler HM, Davies JL. Transcendental Meditation, mindfulness, and longevity: An experimental study with the elderly. J Pers Soc Psychol 1989; 57:950–964.
6. Schneider RH, Staggers F, Alexander C, Sheppard W, Rainforth M, Kondwani K, Smith S, King CG. A randomized controlled trial of stress reduction for hypertension in older African Americans. Hypertension 1995; 26:820-827.
7. Alexander CN, Schneider R, Staggers F, Sheppard W, Clayborne M, Rainforth M, Salerno J, Kondwani K, Smith S, Walton K, Egan B. A trial of stress reduction for hypertension in older African Americans (Part II): Sex and risk factor subgroup analysis. Hypertension 1996; 28:228-237.
8. Wenneberg SR, Schneider RH, MacLean C, Walton KG, MacLean CRK, Levitsky DK, Mandarino JV, Rainforth MV, Salerno JW, Waziri R, Wallace RK. A controlled study on the effects of theTranscendental Meditation program on cardiovascular reactivity and ambulatory blood pressure. Int J Neurosci 1997; 89:15-28.
9. Barnes VA, Treiber FA, Davis H. Impact of Transcendental Meditation on cardiovascular function at rest and during acute stress in adolescents with high normal blood pressure. J Psychosom Res 2001; 51:597-605.
10. Kondwani K. Nonpharmacological treatment of hypertensive heart disease in African Americans: a trial of the Transcendental Meditation program and a health education program. Dissertation Abstracts International B 1998; 3114.
11. Barnes VA, Johnson MH, Treiber FA. Impact of stress reduction on ambulatory blood pressure in African American adolescents. Am J Hypertens 2004; 17:366-368.
Use of Public Data. Another strategy used by researchers at Maharishi University of Management to protect objectivity of the research has been to use public data sets that anyone has access to. Examples are the Blue Cross Blue Shield health utilization statistics, which used data from the BCBS standard reports and data provided by BCBS to the author.
Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1987). Medical care utilization and the Transcendental Meditation program. Psychosomatic Medicine, 49, 493–507.
Orme-Johnson, D. W., & Herron, R. E. (1997). An innovative approach to reducing medical care utilization and expenditures. The American Journal of Managed Care, 3(1), 135-144.
Another example is the data from the M.U.M. doctoral dissertation data for Robert Herron, a study of medical expenditures in Quebec, which came from government health insurance statistics.
Herron, R. E., Hillis, S. L., Mandarino, J. V., Orme-Johnson, D. W., & Walton, K. G. (1996). The impact of the Transcendental Meditation program on government payments to physicians in Quebec. American Journal of Health Promotion, 10(3), 208-216.
In addition most of the variables used in studies of the Maharishi Effect, are publicly available, official government statistics. Research Overview of the Maharishi Effect
Prediction of Results in Advance of the Experiment to Independent Review Boards. Specification of specific research hypotheses in advance of the experiments, prediction of the expected outcomes, and details of the analytic statistical procedures to be used for testing hypotheses have been a routine part of all of the grant-supported research projects at Maharishi University of Management.
This has also been the case for many studies on the Maharishi Effect, most notably for:
Orme-Johnson, D., Alexander, C., Davies, J., Chander, H., & Larimore, W. (1988). International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 32(4), 776-812.
Hagelin, J. S., Rainforth, M. V., Orme-Johnson, D. W., Cavanaugh, K. L., Alexander, C. N., Shatkin, S. F., Davies, J. L., Hughes, A. O., & Ross, E. (1999). Effects of group practice of the Transcendental Meditation program on preventing violent crime in Washington D.C.: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June-July, 1993. Social Indicators Research, 47(2), 153-201.
Replies to Critics in the Published Literature. The MIU/MUM faculty have a long track record of replying to critics of the research in open debate, which have been published in peer-reviewed journals.
For examples, see Societal Effects, Critics and Rebuttals.
Publication of “Negative” Findings: John Kesterson’s Paper. An example of Maharishi University of Management publishing a "negative" finding, and one that is often cited on anti-TM websites, is the doctoral dissertation of one of MIU’s first graduates, John Kesterson, from the university’s doctoral program in the Neuroscience of Human Consciousness. John, along with his thesis advisor, Dr. Noah Clinch, published their findings in the American Journal of Physiology. The finding was only "negative" from the perspective of a particular hypothesis about what meditation is supposed to do. From a broader perspective, the study expanded knowledge of the physiological effects of meditation to something that was perhaps even more interesting.
The initial hypothesis, which the study contradicted, was that the reduction in respiration rate during the Transcendental Meditation technique is due to a reduction in oxygen consumption by the body. Previous research by Dr. Keith Wallace and others had found that oxygen consumption decreases approximately 20% during meditation, which was published in Science, the American Journal of Physiology, and Scientific American. The editors of the Scientific American article included a graphic showing a 20% decline in oxygen consumption over 20 minutes of meditation compared with about a 7% decline over 7 hours of night’s sleep, as well as a small increase during hypnosis. The sleep and hypnosis data were taken from the published literature. This graphic was accurate from the point of view of showing the relative rate of change in oxygen consumption during the three different conditions. The problem with it, as Kesterson and Clinch’s study high lighted, was that the graph gives the impression that the oxygen consumption goes to a lower level during TM than during sleep. Kesterson and Clinch found that when one simply lies down, oxygen consumption decreases to a lower level than during meditation. The reason is simply that the muscles of the body need less oxygen when one is lying down than when one is sitting. The appropriate control for meditation is sitting eyes closed resting, not lying down. The meta-analysis by Dillbeck and Orme-Johnson has shown that compared to sitting eyes closed, the Transcendental Meditation program decreases respiration rate, and plasma lactate and increases basal skin resistance, indicating that it produces a deeper state of rest than ordinary resting with eyes closed.
The interesting thing about Kesterson and Clinch’s results is that they found evidence that the uniqueness of the meditative state has more to do with the brain than with whole-body metabolism.
Click here for more discussion of Kesterson and Clinch’s study and its implications for the physiological research on transcendental consciousness.
Dillbeck, M. C., & Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1987). Physiological differences between Transcendental Meditation and rest. American Psychologist, 42, 879–881.
Kesterson, J., & Clinch, N. (1989). Metabolic rate, respiratory exchange ratio and apneas during meditation. American Journal of Physiology,256 (Regulatory Integrative Comparative Physiology 25): R632-R638.
Wallace, R. K. (1970). Physiological effects of Transcendental Meditation. Science, 167, 1751–1754.
Wallace, R. K., Benson, H., & Wilson, A. F. (1971). A wakeful hypometabolic physiologic state. American Journal of Physiology, 221, 795-799.
Wallace, R. K. & Benson, H. (1972). The Physiology of Meditation. Scientific American, 226, 84-90.
Replies to Allegations that Maharishi University of Management Suppresses Negative Research: Dennis Roark and Anthony Denaro.
Two former faculty members of Maharishi International University, Dennis Roark and Anthony Denaro, have made allegations that the university has suppressed negative research results. Neither Roark nor Denaro were involved in the research at MIU, so they are not in a position to be "expert witnesses". I have had various key roles in the research at the university as Director of the International Center for Scientific Research, Chairman of the Psychology Department and Director of its doctoral program, Co-Director of the doctoral program in the Neurophysiology of Consciousness, and as Dean of Research. I hardly knew Tony Denaro, and several other faculty members that I have talked to don't remember his ever being there. That I didn't know him is significant in this context, because he, being a lawyer, was never involved in the research, so he is hardly in a position to comment on the research process. Even if he had heard second or third hand accounts, I have not heard of any specific instances cited by him to back up his claims, which, to my knowledge, are untrue.
The comments by Dennis Roark came from a letter dated 1987 cited on an anti-TM website, in which he states that the research at MIU is "fraudulent in many ways”. The only specific instance that he cites is his doubts about EEG research on Yogic Flying. I was senior author on the first pilot study and co- author on a subsequent controlled study, so I am very familiar with the methodology used.
Roark refers to a poster with a picture of meditators during Yogic Flying next to a Coherence Spectral Array (COSPAR), which displays high EEG coherence during Yogic Flying. A copy of this chart appears at the bottom of his letter criticizing the TM research. The chart legend says "Maximum EEG coherence as the basis for TM-Sidhi performance. In the case of the flying technique, the body lifts at the point of maximum coherence." This is an accurate description of what the research found; high EEG coherence indicated immediately before lift-off, which was not due to artifacts and which was not found in non-meditating controls before voluntary jumping.
The COSPAR which was used in the poster Roark refers to was published in 1977 in paper 102 of volume 1 of Collected Papers. Figure 4 in the paper, on page 709, displays the COSPARs during Yogic Flying from two different sessions eight days apart. It shows similar results for both sessions, indicating the consistency of the finding. Typical raw EEG tracings on which the coherence was calculated are shown below the respective COSPARS. It can be seen in the tracings that there were no artifacts in the EEG. This was explicitly pointed out in the figure caption, which says: "[the EEG traces] shown below each COSPAR indicate that the coherence increases seen during 'flying' were not due to artifacts." Thus figure 4 in this paper published in 1977 is evidence that we were well aware of the artifact issue in EEG studies of Yogic Flying 10 years before Roark made his comments in 1987.
Reference: Orme-Johnson, D. W.; Clements, G.; Haynes, C. T.; and Badawi, K. Higher states of consciousness: EEG coherence, creativity, and experiences of the sidhis. Centre for the Study of Higher States of Consciousness, Maharishi European Research University, Switzerland. In Orme-Johnson, D. W. and Farrrow, J. T., eds. 1977. Scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation program: Collected papers, vol. 1. Rheinweiler, Germany: MERU Press).
There are many EEG studies of runners, astronauts, etc., where the subject is moving. One approach to dealing with artifacts that many scientists use is to remove them with digital filtering. Another, more conservative approach, which we used, was to eliminate epochs with artifacts in them from the data set. This approach was used by Fred Travis in his 1988 controlled study of Yogic Flying by: 1) manually editing out EMG contaminated epochs before spectral analysis of the EEG; 2) showing that there was very little power in the theta and beta frequencies, where muscle artifacts would show up; and 3) showing that non-meditating control subjects who jumped in a way that imitated Yogic Flying did not show the same results (e.g., they did not show increased coherence the moment before lift-off whereas the Yogic Fliers did). Travis found broad band increases in EEG coherence associated with Yogic Flying, which is just what the chart on the poster showed. The formal controlled study replicated the findings of the earlier pilot study.
There has been some suggestion that our attention to the artifact issue in 1988 was in response to Dennis Roark’s 1987 letter, but we were well aware of the artifact issue 10 years before in 1977, as was published in Collected Papers vol. 1, as noted above. Roark’s comments had no impact on this or any future research, as the artifact issue was well known and considered by all researchers.
Reference: Travis, F., and Orme-Johnson, D. W. EEG coherence and power during yogic flying. International Journal of Neuroscience, 54: 1–12, 1990.
In summary, the only specific criticism of the research at Maharishi University of Management was trivial and uninformed. It was based on a lack of understanding of the research methodology used.
A Personal View: Why would a former faculty member of Maharishi University of Management make such statements? Dennis Roark was a biochemist, and I know something about his story and can comment on it. I met Dennis in 1972 at a Science of Creative Intelligence conference held at Humboldt State College in Humboldt, California. The conference was attended by 2-3 thousand people interested in becoming teachers of the Transcendental Meditation program. The conference format was lectures by Maharishi and leading scholars, who presented the latest findings in their disciplines, which ranged from physics, chemistry, and astronomy to psychology and the arts. Nobel Lauriet Melvin Calvin, for example, told how he unraveled the mystery of photo synthesis, and Buckminster Fuller spoke on the geodesic dome and his concept of synergetics. Maharishi commented on these presentations and related them to his knowledge of consciousness in open discussions with the presenters and the audience.
I don’t recall if it was to the whole group or in a smaller meeting with the scientist, but Dennis presented his ongoing research on TM that he was conducting at Hershey University, which I recall, was to measure adrenaline or some other neurotransmitters believed to be stress related. I never heard what Dennis’s results were until a meeting perhaps a year or two later, when Maharishi asked whatever became of Dennis Roark and his research. Someone said that his study had not come out as he had expected, and that he felt bad about it and didn't tell anyone. Apparently Dennis felt he was measuring an index of stress, which probably was the current interpretation in the field, and since it did not decrease with meditation it meant that his study was an indication that meditation does not reduce stress. I am not sure of the details of the study because it was never published. I never saw even an unpublished version of what he did and found, and I never heard Dennis talk about the results.
Maharishi said that Dennis should have come and openly discussed his findings with everyone. “He shouldn’t have run away” was a phrase I recall him using. Maharishi’s point of view was that the understanding of neurotransmitters is far from complete, commenting that the interpretation of the function of those substances is conditioned by the fact that they have largely been studied in the context of stress and stressed individuals. He said that the “stress” interpretation may prove to be a limited one and that the deeper function of those neurotransmitters in a healthy, highly integrated physiology may be to provide dynamism, which is characteristic of life in enlightenment. Thinking about this, my analogy is that a stressed individual could be likened to a car engine that is out of tune and malfunctioning, so that a high octane fuel would tend to tear the engine apart. For a highly tuned, well functioning engine, the same fuel would not only not be detrimental, it would actually be beneficial and necessary for making a high level of performance possible. In fact, Maharishi European Research University has reprinted in Scientific Research on the Transcendental Meditation Program: Collected Papers, vol. 3, a published paper from a university in Germany showing findings perhaps similar to Roark’s, which is that adrenaline may actually increase in long-term meditators after exercise and at other times.
CP vol. 3, paper 198. Lang, R.; Dehof, K.; Meurer, K. A.; and Kaufmann, W. Sympathetic activity and Transcendental Meditation. Journal of Neural Transmission 44: 117135, 1979.
Dennis Roark later came to MIU as faculty but he never did any research, which I always felt was odd, because he was highly qualified to do so. I think he felt bad about his own non-reporting of negative findings, and I think that he was viewing MIU through the lens of his own conflicted feelings. He may have been “projecting” to use the jargon of psychology. I also heard that after he started speaking out against MIU he became (or always was) a fundamentalist Christian, and I imagine that he may have had some conflicts in that area also, because the fear and antipathy towards other cultures that some fundamentalists groups instill in their followers.
Interpretation of Negative Findings. In any event, as a director of research, I adopted Maharishi’s example as my approach to “negative” results, which is that one should try to find a broader perspective to make sense of the data when the interpretation is not immediately obvious. A “broader perspective” means that we looked for more information in the literature about the parameters we were measuring, more information about subjects characteristics that might condition our findings, reflected on our own personal experiences to make sense of the data, and asked ourselves if our conceptual framework was right or if there was a better way of looking at things that would pull together more knowledge of the field and be consistent with our personal experience. If there was a new idea about how to interpret data, we formulated new hypotheses and experiments to test them. This kind of organic interaction with the data is how science evolves.
Example of Reinterpreting the Data. Let me give a concrete example of re-interpreting data from my first study of the Transcendental Meditation program, which I conducted at the University of Texas at El Paso in the early 1970’s. One of my findings, which I reported in my paper, was that the mean of the meditator’s initial stress response (skin resistance response) to a noxious loud tone was larger than controls, although it was not a statistically significant difference. From the perspective of the hypothesis that meditation is supposed to reduce the response to stress, this could be viewed as a negative result. But I had also found that the meditators showed fewer random, non-specific stress responses (spontaneous or phasic skin resistance responses), and that their stress response to the tones habituated more rapidly than controls. Considering what the adaptive advantage of this pattern of responding might be, it occurred to me that the reduced random background stress responses meant conservation of adaptive energy so that there would be more adaptive reserves available when an actual stressor came along, followed by a more rapid recovery afterwards when responding was no longer necessary. This would conserve energy. If a person were always anxious and anticipating negativity when it was not there, then when a challenge actually did present itself, their physiologies would be too exhausted to respond effectively, and would keep on responding needlessly after the event had passed. On the other hand, the meditator pattern-- less responses when the stressor was not present, rapid mobilization of the stress response when the stressor did come, and then rapid recovery afterwards, was clearly a more highly adaptive response style, in an evolutionary sense. In my experiment, the stressor came at random intervals and could not be anticipated, so there was no advantage to responding until it actually did occur.
Orme-Johnson, D. (1973). Autonomic stability and Transcendental Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 35, 341-349.
Replication. A year or two later, Daniel Goleman and Gary Schwartz at Harvard replicated my study with a somewhat different research design, as part of Goleman’s doctoral dissertation. They also found a meditator pattern similar to what I observed. They reported that meditators showed a more rapid increase in stress responses (phasic skin conductance activity, conductance is the reciprocal of resistance) in anticipation to seeing a very stressful shop accident in a film, and then more rapid recovery after the accident. In their study, the stressor could be anticipated because you could see it coming in the film. I met Dr. Schwartz at a meeting of the American Psychological Association and he was concerned about how to interpret the results. I suggested that the increased activation in anticipation of the stressor, which he also found for heart rate, was a more adaptive response because it was preparing the meditators for the oncoming stressors, whereas after the stressors were over, it was more adaptive for them to recover faster, which they found for both heart rate and phasic skin conductance). He seemed to accept this as a valid interpretation, and their results an independent replication of the meditators pattern that I had found. With regard to the greater increase in autonomic arousal anticipation of the stressors, Goleman and Schwartz wrote in their Discussion "accompanying physiological arousal, is adaptive insofar as it mobilizes the organism for vigilance in order to facilitate appropriate coping reactions." With regard to the more rapid habituation to the stressors, they wrote "The net effect for meditators appears to be greater recovery from anticipatory arousal, a pattern consistent with their more positive affect and lower situational and trait anxiety levels."p. 464.
Goleman, D. J., & Schwartz, G. E. (1976). Meditation as an intervention in stress reactivity. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 44, 456–466.
American Psychologist. Later, in 1984 in a paper entitled “Meditation and somatic arousal reduction” published in the American Psychologist, Holmes made a similar mistake of assuming that the purpose of meditation was always to dampen the autonomic response to stress. Dr. Michael Dillbeck and I replied in the same journal that meditators respond differently to stress and pointed out that this response should not be assessed in too simplistic of fashion, that is, without assessing responses in the context of the interaction of physiological systems, and from the perspective of what would be the most ideal adaptive pattern in the particular stress situation. We said, "In addition, we argue that ‘control of arousal and threatening situations’ (Holmes, 1984, p.8) may not be physiologically adaptive, and it is clearly not the goal of the TM technique, which from a physiological perspective is described as increased integration and adaptive efficiency (Wallace, 1986, pp. 99-108). In fact, the most adaptive response to stress would probably not be the absence of physiological response to threatening situations, but rather rapid recovery after the stress, possibly even preceded by increased physiological mobilization if the stress was severe and could be anticipated; such a pattern is consistent with the research evidence (Goleman and Schwartz, 1976; Orme-Johnson, 1973; Puente and Beiman, 1980).” Dillbeck and Orme-Johnson, p. 880.
Holmes, D. (1984). Meditation and somatic arousal reduction: A review of the experimental evidence. American Psychologist, 39(1), 1-10.
Dillbeck, M. C., & Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1987). Physiological differences between Transcendental Meditation and rest. American Psychologist, 42, 879–881.
Wallace, R. K. (1986). The Neurophysiology of Enlightenment. Fairfield, IA: MIU Press.
Type 1-Type 2 Errors. There are two types of errors that a research scientist may make, which are called Type 1 and Type 2 errors. These have a technical statistical meaning, but the idea is that the Type 1 error is to accept a hypothesis as true when in fact it is false. A Type 2 error is to accept a hypothesis as false when in fact it is true.
The champions of Type 1, not wanting to admit any knowledge that is not true, will set a very high standard before they accept a new result. For example, they will set the p-value for accepting the result at a very small level, say p < .001. Generally, before a result is accepted as overturning a well-established theory or paradigm, for before a new treatment is introduced into society, the result will have to be demonstrated at a very high level of statistical significance, in tightly controlled research designs, and be replicated at several independent laboratories.
The champions of the Type 2 error, in order to not throw away something that is true, will be more lenient, perhaps accepting a result with a p-value of only p < .1. This may be the standard accepted when studying promising new phenomenon, often in pilot studies, in which the researchers do not want to "throw out the baby with the bath water". To become a generally accepted result by the scientific community, however, the skeptics (Type 1 people) will have to be convinced, and the result will have to stand up to well-controlled experiments and come in with a high statistical significance.
Whether a researcher takes a Type 1 or Type 2 stance towards a particular issue will depend largely on their intuition. Intuition is based in our own personal life experiences as well as in knowledge of science and other areas of life. A very good book on the role of intuition and other nonintellectual factors in the scientific process is “The Art of Scientific Investigation” by William Ian Beveridge, which I read as a teenager. The book documents that most great scientific discoveries were made by researchers who persisted on the basis of strong intuition.
If one's intuition says "I think that is true" then the individual will take a Type 2 stance. But if one’s intuition is that it is not true, they will become a Type 1 skeptic. The dynamics of science is an interaction between the Type 1 and Type 2 camps, between those who are trying to prove something that is true and those who are trying to prove that it is false.
I would say that the faculty of Maharishi University of Management tend to be in the Type 2 camp with regard to the Transcendental Meditation program. They came to the university because of their own personal experiences that the program benefited of them, and they will tend to see it as a good thing. Therefore, in the research process, they will be reluctant to declare a finding as “negative” before they have examined it in many different ways and thought a great deal about alternative interpretations or experimental factors which may have explained the outcome. On the other hand, those who have not had the same experiences and intuition may be demand more stringent tests. Just because the researchers at Maharishi University of Management may have a Type 2 attitude does not mean that they less objective than anyone else. The research practices in place at the university listed above provide a strong set of checks and balances making sure that the research stays on track according to the highest standards of science. In the long-run, the scientific method and objectivity will win out over the inevitable diverse subjective propensities of individual researchers.
After over 36 years of research on the Transcendental Meditation program, all the major findings have been replicated in many universities and cross validated by diverse measurement modalities. For example, reduced anxiety measured by psychological inventories has been cross validated by studies showing increased autonomic stability. In addition, laboratory findings have been validated by real life programs. For example, the research showing improved academic and cognitive functioning has been validated by the remarkable achievements of the students of the Maharishi School. Moreover, research and higher states of consciousness continues to unfold exciting new results.
See Is Transcendental Consciousness Just a Metaphysical State? and Is Anyone Getting Enlightened?
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