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Mindfulness Helps Computer Engineering Students

February 9, 2018

A group of University of Seville researchers has shown that the practice of mindfulness increases the capacity to solve computer-engineering problems. The authors of the study have used data to back the benefits of a technique that is now used in school and universities, as well as in tech companies like Google and Intel.

Mindfulness is rooted in being fully aware. One of the methods for achieving this state of awareness in your daily life is meditation, which is referred to as formal mindfulness. This consists of taking time out to be still in a calm place and total silence. During this time, the objective is to think about one thing. Typically, this is your breathing.

The research, carried out by the teachers Beatriz Bernárdez, Amador Durán, José Antonio Parejo and Antonio Ruiz, came about because the first of these, who practices mindfulness and noticed a considerable improvement in her ability to solve problems. In fact, there have been previous neurological studies that show that meditation stimulates activity in certain areas of the brain connected to different aspects of mental activity, such as compassion, attention and concentration. In the study, two variables were evaluated: effectiveness (how well the students performed a task) and efficiency (how quickly they did the correct part). These variables were measured twice, before and after the mindfulness sessions, in both groups, experimental and control. In both cases, the students were faced with conceptual modeling exercises, a task that is normally quite difficult, and which requires analytical skills, reading comprehension and the capacity to classify and organize concepts.

Since 2014, the authors have carried out three experiments to test their theory. The first lasted four weeks and the next two lasted six. During this time, a group of students took part in mindfulness sessions that lasted between ten and twelve minutes four times a week. In each session, they first performed a mindfulness body scan. Then, the students were invited to carefully focus their attention on their breathing, ignoring any other idea that came into their minds (thought, feeling, memory). To be able to see how the students' effectiveness and efficiency were progressing with this activity, their performance was compared with the control group that were not taking part in the mindfulness sessions.

In the three experiments carried out so far, the students who practiced mindfulness were significantly more efficient than the others were. That is to say that the students who practiced the same results took less time to achieve the same results.

As for effectiveness, although subtle improvements can be observed when analyzing the data of each individual experiment, if the data from all three experiments is put together, it can be seen that there the students who practise mindfulness are significantly more effective. This can be attributed to the size of the sample, which is insufficient to observe improvements in individual experiments.

The researchers now intend to replicate their experiment in other universities to be able to generalize their findings. They also hope to be able to start empirical studies in software development companies and, to this end, they are already in conversation with some important companies in Seville in this sector.

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