Can Mindfulness Improve Decision Making?

Can present-moment focus undercut our tendency to stick with the path we're already on?

By Hooria Jazaieri

Researchers have conceptualized mindfulness as being a trait—a quality inherent in an individual—or a state, which can be arrived at through meditation. In a recent study published in Psychological Science, Andrew Hafenbrack and colleagues used these two concepts to investigate whether the enhanced present-moment awareness that comes with mindfulness would reduce “sunk-cost bias”—that is, the tendency to continue down a path once we have already made some sort of investment of time, money, or effort.

By definition, sunk-costs are things that have already happened in the past, not the present or future. For example, maybe you find yourself several years into a relationship and realize that you and your partner have irreconcilable differences—but instead of breaking up, you stick with the partner since you’ve shared so many years together. Or, perhaps, one day you realize that your job is not the right one for you. But you don’t look for another job or go back to school, because your current position has consumed so much of your time and effort.

It is understandable that we’d want to see a return on such investments, and we might hope that holding on just a little…