TIES Lab

If you can't measure it, ...

As I write this post some years after our research program is underway, I had to pick a date for when things got started. Thinking back, one of the reasons that I went to graduate school is because I wanted to study meditation with scientific rigor. Therefore, it seems reasonable to date this post to the beginning of my graduate studies at University of Virginia.

There is an old Zen koan that asks, “If a tree falls in the forest, but nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” It’s a bit silly to use a Zen koan for an analogy. That’s not the point. Zen koans are not meant to be entertained in a cognitive sense, but were designed to point out the limitations of explicit cognition. Regardless of the original intent, this Zen koan (with some minor changes in wording) well sums up the state of psychology with respect to mental silence. We could find no self report measure for mental silence in the literature. With nobody looking or around to see it, mental silence might as well not exist, even as a possibility. Hence, we set out to develop a self report measure.

Cognitive psychology is area that we believe should study mental silence. After all, the absence of cognition is surely a phenomenon within the scope of cognitive psychology. Well, maybe. I have yet to meet a cognitive psychologist that expressed much enthusiasm about the absence of cognition.

I would like to thank the following sites for listing our survey: