Does Mindfulness Reduce Perceptions of False Self?
Mindfulness, as measured by the Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), has been proposed to consist of five component facets. These facets capture the ability to observe present moment experience, to describe that experience using words, to adopt a non-reactive and non-judgemental stance to experience, and to act with awareness. Authenticity is a distinct but related construct, and refers to the perception that one’s outward behaviours are in accord with one’s inner thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Levels of both mindfulness and of authenticity have been found to correlate positively with positive psychological outcomes, such as subjective wellbeing, and to correlate negatively with negative psychological outcomes, such as anxiety and depression. This thesis considered the construct of false self, as measured by the Perceptions of False Self scale (PoFS), to be antithetical to authenticity. In other words, false self refers to the experience of that one’s behaviour is not in accordance with one’s inner thoughts, feelings, or beliefs, leading to the unpleasant experience of inauthenticity or ‘phoniness’. A negative relationship between mindfulness and false self was expected to be found. Ratings on the FFMQ and the PoFS were examined in a population of university undergraduates, both concurrently and longitudinally at four months. Hypotheses for this study were as follows: (H1) mindfulness and false self would negatively correlate, (H2) mindfulness scores would predict a decrease in false self over time, and (H3), in line with prior research, the FFMQ facet of Observing would exhibit a weaker relationship with false self compared to the other FFMQ facets. This study also proposed one research question (RQ1), which sought to determine whether the relationship between mindfulness and false self would be curvilinear such that the negative relationship would be stronger at low levels of mindfulness than at high levels. Correlation matrixes and simultaneous inclusion hierarchical regressions were conducted to investigate H1, H2, and H3, and quadratic and cubic terms were entered into regression analyses to investigate RQ1. H1 and H2 were supported in that FFMQ scores were found to negatively predicted PoFS scores, both concurrently and over time. At the same time, PoFS scores also negatively predicted FFMQ scores over time. However, the predictive effect of mindfulness on false self was stronger than the reverse direction. H3 was supported, in that Observing tended to exhibit a weaker relationship with false self-perceptions compared to the other FFMQ facets. In answer to RQ1, no quadratic and cubic terms reached significance after correcting for the effect of multiple variables, suggesting that the relationship between false self and mindfulness can best be described as linear. The discovery of a longitudinal relationship between mindfulness and false self is a unique finding. This has important implications for the provision of mindfulness as an intervention to prevent the development of known negative psychological outcomes that result from experiences of false self.