Mindfulness and Behavioural Insights
Reflections on the Meditative Brain, Systems Theory and Organizational Change
Keywords:anticipatory systems, autopoeisis, behavioural insights, capability building, cognition, emotion, government, mindfulness, policy making
This paper explores the impacts of the Mindfulness-Based Behavioural Insights and Decision-Making (MBBI) programme. Combining mindfulness with behavioural insights instruction, the authors have developed the MBBI programme through a series of iterative trials over the last ten years. In addition to fusing mindfulness and behavioural insights, this programme also draws on the theories of autopoiesis, anticipatory systems, the predictive brain and constructed emotions, which all challenge the common assumption that behavioural and emotional responses are automatic (triggered by given stimuli and not open to change through self-reflection). The paper explores the use of the MBBI in the Welsh Civil Service. Employing evidence from in-depth interviews with participants and a SenseMaker analysis, it rethinks the role of mindfulness at work, repurposes the application of behavioural insights training toward a more ethical and systemic direction, and develops a reflective approach to capability building amongst public servants.
Arendt, J. F., Verdorfer, A. P., & Kugler, K. G. (2019). Mindfulness and leadership: Communication as a behavioral correlate of leader mindfulness and its effect on follower satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00667
Baggio, M., Ciriolo, E., Marandola, G., & van Bavel, R. (2021). The evolution of behaviourally informed policymaking in the EU. Journal of European Public Policy, 28(5), 658–676. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2021.1912145
Barrett, L. F. (2006). Solving the emotion paradox: Categorization and the experience of emotion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(1), 20–46. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327957pspr1001_2
Birmingham Leadership Institute (2022). Systems thinking and leadership practitioner level 7 apprenticeship. University of Birmingham. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/postgraduate/courses/taught/socsci/systems-thinking-leadership-apprenticeship.aspx
Bristow, J. (2019). Mindfulness in politics and public policy. Current Opinion in Psychology, 28, 87–91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.11.003
Cabrera, D., Cabrera, L., & Powers, E. (2015). A unifying theory of systems thinking with psychosocial applications. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 32(5), 534–545. https://doi.org/10.1002/sres.2351
Chater, N. (2018). The mind is flat: The illusion of mental depth and the improvised mind. Penguin.
Checkland, P. & Poulter, J. (2006). Learning for action: A short definitive account of soft systems methodology and its use for practitioners, teachers and students. Wiley.
Churchman, C. W. (1979). The systems approach (2nd ed.). Dell.
Clark, A. (2015). Surfing uncertainty: Prediction, action, and the embodied mind. Oxford University Press.
CMRP (Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice) (2013). Mindfulness based stress reduction. Course information, unpublished.
Crane, R. S. (2017). Implementing mindfulness in the mainstream: Making the path by walking it. Mindfulness, 8(3), 585–594. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0632-7
Dolan, P., Hallsworth, M., Halpern, D., King, D., & Vlaev, I. (2010). MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour for public policy. Institute of Government.
Dunning, D. L., Griffiths, K., Kuyken, W., Crane, C., Foulkes, L., Parker, J., & Dalgleish, T. (2019). Research review: The effects of mindfulness-based interventions on cognition and mental health in children and adolescents – a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 60(3), 244–258. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12980
Fazeli, S., & Büchel, C. (2018). Pain-related expectation and prediction error signals in the anterior insula are not related to aversiveness. Journal of Neuroscience, 38(29), 6461–6474. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0671-18.2018
Forbes, D. (2019). Mindfulness and its discontents: Education, self, and social transformation. Fernwood Publishing.
Fuenmayor, R. (1990). Systems thinking and critique. I. What is critique? Systems Practice, 3(6), 524–544. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01059637
Geiger, S. M., Grossman, P., & Schrader, U. (2018). Mindfulness and sustainability: Correlation or causation? Current Opinion in Psychology, 28, 23–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.09.010
Gigerenzer, G. (2015). On the supposed evidence for libertarian paternalism. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 6(3), 361–383. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13164-015-0248-1
Goldberg, S. B., Tucker, R. P., Greene, P. A., Simpson, T. L., Kearney, D. J., & Davidson, R. J. (2017). Is mindfulness research methodology improving over time? A systematic review. PloS One, 12(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187298
Good, D. J., Lyddy, C. J., Glomb, T. M., Bono, J. E., Brown, K. W., Duffy, M. K., Baer, R. A., Brewer, J. A., & Lazar, S. W. (2016). Contemplating mindfulness at work: An integrative review. Journal of Management, 42(1), 114–142. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206315617003
GOV.UK (2015). Statutory guidance: The civil service code. GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-service-code/the-civil-service-code
Gross, J. J. (2014). Emotion regulation: Conceptual and empirical foundations. In, J. J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation (pp. 3–20). The Guilford Press.
Gu, J., Strauss, C., Bond, R., & Cavanagh, K. (2015). How do mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction improve mental health and wellbeing? A systematic review and meta-analysis of mediation studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 37, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2015.01.006
Hafenbrack, A. C., Kinias, Z., & Barsade, S. G. (2014). Debiasing the mind through meditation: Mindfulness and the sunk-cost bias. Psychological Science, 25(2), 369–376. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613503853
Hallsworth, M., Egan, M., Rutter, J., & McCrae J. (2018). Behavioural government: Using behavioural sciences to make better decisions in government. The Behavioural Insights Team. https://www.bi.team/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/BIT-Behavioural-Government-Report-2018.pdf
Haskin, D. (2017). Coming home: Compassionate presence in prison. Anthropology of Consciousness, 28(2), 152–155. https://doi.org/10.1111/anoc.12075
Hinton, P. (2017). Implicit stereotypes and the predictive brain: Cognition and culture in “biased” person perception. Palgrave Communications, 3, 17086. https://doi.org/10.1057/palcomms.2017.86
Hohwy, J. (2020). New directions in predictive processing. Mind & Language, 35(2), 209–223. https://doi.org/10.1111/mila.12281
Hwang, Y.-S., Bartlett, B., Greben, M., & Hand, K. (2017). A systematic review of mindfulness interventions for in-service teachers: A tool to enhance teacher wellbeing and performance. Teaching and Teacher Education, 64, 26–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.01.015
Ison, R., & Straw, E. (2020). The hidden power of systems thinking: Governance in a climate emergency. Routledge.
Jha, A. P., Morrison, A. B., Dainer-Best, J., Parker, S., Rostrup, N., & Stanley, E. A. (2015). Minds “at attention”: Mindfulness training curbs attentional lapses in military cohorts. PloS One, 10(2) https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0116889
Jones, R., Pykett, J., & Whitehead, M. (2013). Changing behaviours: On the rise of the psychological state. Edward Elgar Publishing.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144–156. https://doi.org/10.1093/clipsy.bpg016
Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan.
Kahneman, D., & Klein, G. (2009). Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree. American Psychologist, 64(6), 515–526. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016755
Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1984). Choices, values and frames. American Psychologist, 39, 341–350. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.39.4.341
Kersemaekers, W., Rupprecht, S., Wittmann, M., Tamdjidi, C., Falke, P., Donders, R., Speckens, A., & Kohls, N. (2018). A workplace mindfulness intervention may be associated with improved psychological well-being and productivity. A preliminary field study in a company setting. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 195. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00195
Kreplin, U., Farias, M., & Brazil, I. A. (2018). The limited prosocial effects of meditation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 2403. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-20299-z
Langer, E. J. (1989). Mindfulness. Addison-Wesley.
Lazarus, R. J. (2009). Super wicked problems and climate change: Restraining the present to liberate the future. Cornell Law Review, 94, 1153–1234.
Leggett, W. (2014). The politics of behaviour change: Nudge, neoliberalism and the state. Policy & Politics, 42(1), 3–19. https://doi.org/10.1332/030557312x655576
Levin, K., Cashore, B., Bernstein, S., & Auld, G. (2012). Overcoming the tragedy of super wicked problems: Constraining our future selves to ameliorate global climate change. Policy Sciences, 45 (2), 123–152. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-012-9151-0
Lomas, T., Medina, J. C., Ivtzan, I., Rupprecht, S., Hart, R., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. J. (2017). The impact of mindfulness on well-being and performance in the workplace: An inclusive systematic review of the empirical literature. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 26(4), 492–513. https://doi.org/10.1080/1359432X.2017.1308924
Lutz, A., Mattout, J., & Pagnoni, G. (2019). The epistemic and pragmatic value of non-action: A predictive coding perspective on meditation. Current Opinion in Psychology, 28,166–171. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.12.019
Maex, E. (2011). The Buddhist roots of mindfulness training: A practitioner’s view. Contemporary Buddhism, 12, 165–175. https://doi.org/10.1080/14639947.2011.564835
Mair D. S. L., La Placa, G., Schwendinger, F., Raykovska, M., Pasztor, Z., van Bavel, R. (2019). Understanding our political nature: How to put knowledge and reason at the heart of political decision-making. EUR 29783 EN, Publications Office of the European Union. https://doi.org/10.2760/374191
Maturana, H. (1970). Biology of cognition. Biological computer laboratory research report BCL 9.0. University of Illinois. https://reflexus.org/wp-content/uploads/BoC.pdf
Maturana, H. (1988). Reality: The search for objectivity or the quest for a compelling argument. Irish Journal of Psychology, 9, 25-82. https://doi.org/10.1080/03033910.1988.10557705
Maturana, H. R., & Varela, F. J. (1972). Autopoiesis and cognition: The realization of the living. Reidel.
Maturana, H. R., & Varela, F. J. (1987). The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding. Shambhala.
Maturana, H. R., & Varela, F. J. (1992). The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding (2nd ed.). Shambhala.
McCaw, C. T. (2020). Mindfulness 'thick' and 'thin' - A critical review of the uses of mindfulness in education. Oxford Review of Education, 46(2), 257–278. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2019.1667759
Midgley, G. (2000). Systemic intervention: Philosophy, methodology, and practice. Kluwer/Plenum.
Midgley, G., & Lindhult, E. (2021). A systems perspective on systemic innovation. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 38(5), 635–670. https://doi.org/10.1002/sres.2819
Midgley, G., & Pinzón, L. (2011). The implications of boundary critique for conflict prevention. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 62, 1543–1554. https://doi.org/10.1057/jors.2010.76
Mullainathan, S., & Shafir, E. (2013). Scarcity: Why having too little means so much. Macmillan.
Mindfulness Initiative (2016). Building the case for mindfulness in the workplace. The mindfulness initiative. Private Sector Working Group. https://www.themindfulnessinitiative.org/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=46ef10fd-4d64-41f9-91a6-163d52cd304c
Nehring, D., & Frawley, A. (2020). Mindfulness as a self-help fad: The mindfulness industry, popular psychological knowledge and the sociological imagination. In D. Nehring, O. J. Madsen, E. Cabanas, C. Mills, & D. Kerrigan (Eds.), The Routledge international handbook of global therapeutic cultures (pp. 119–134). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429024764-12
OECD (2017). Behavioural insights and public policy lessons from around the world. OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264270480-en
Oliver, A. (2013). From nudging to budging: Using behavioural economics to inform public sector policy. Journal of Social Policy, 42(4), 685–700. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047279413000299
Pagnoni, G. (2019). The contemplative exercise through the lenses of predictive processing: A promising approach. Progress in Brain Research, 244, 299–322. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.10.022
Pessoa, L. (2013). The cognitive-emotional brain: From interactions to integration. MIT press.
Purser, R. (2019). McMindfulness: How mindfulness became the new capitalist spirituality. Repeater.
Purser, R. E. (2018). Critical perspectives on corporate mindfulness. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 15(2), 105–108. https://doi.org/10.1080/14766086.2018.1438038
Pykett, J., Lilley, R., Whitehead, M., Howell, R., & Jones, R. (2016). Mindfulness, behaviour change and decision making: An experimental trial. University of Birmingham.
Reitz, M., Chaskalson, M., Olivier, S., & Waller, L. (2016). The mindful leader: Developing the capacity for resilience and collaboration in complex times through mindfulness practice. Ashridge Executive Education HULT.
Rittel, H. J., & Webber, M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155–169. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01405730
Robson, C., & McCartan, K. (2016). Real world research: A resource for users of social research methods and applied settings (4th ed.). Wiley.
Rosen, R. (1985). Anticipatory systems: Philosophical, mathematical, and methodological foundations. Pergamon.
Rosen, R. (1991). Life itself: A comprehensive inquiry into the nature, origin and fabrication of life. Columbia University Press.
Rupprecht, S., Koole, W., Chaskalson, M., Tamdjidi, C., & West, M. (2018). Running too far ahead? Towards a broader understanding of mindfulness in organisations. Current Opinion in Psychology, 28, 32–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.10.007
Sanders, M., Snijders, V., & Hallsworth, M. (2018). Behavioural science and policy: Where are we now and where are we going? Behavioural Public Policy, 2(2), 144–167. https://doi.org/10.1017/bpp.2018.17
Scharmer, C. (2007). Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges. Society for Organizational Learning.
Segal, Z. V., Teasdale, J. D., & Williams, J. M. G. (2004). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: Theoretical rationale and empirical status. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and Acceptance: Expanding the Cognitive-Behavioral Tradition (pp. 45–65). The Guilford Press.
Seth, A. K., & Friston, K. J. (2016). Active interoceptive inference and the emotional brain. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371(1708), 20160007. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0007
Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373–386. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20237
- 2022-12-20 (2)
- 2022-11-30 (1)
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Rachel Lilley, Mark Whitehead, Gerald Midgley
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.