Having a nonjudgmental regard towards others is related to reduced prejudice, according to new research published in Psychological Reports. The new findings shed light on the relationship between prejudice and mindfulness, and suggest that the conceptualization of mindfulness should be broadened beyond self-focused characteristics.
The authors of the new research had previously examined the link between prejudice and trait mindfulness, meaning the tendency to recognize and accept one’s thoughts and emotions without judgment.
“Kalee and I were interested in determining whether mindfulness would be related to less prejudice as researchers had suggested this for some time,” explained Adelheid Nicol, a professor and department head at the Military Psychology and Leadership Department at the Royal Military College of Canada. “Our research, published in the journal Mindfulness, suggested that existing mindfulness trait measures seemed unrelated or only weakly related to prejudice. This paper wanted to explore that further.”
“We focused on the content of the items of these mindfulness trait measures and noted that most measures of mindfulness focus on the self. This makes sense given that in North America many of these measures were designed and developed under the backdrop of improving mental and physical personal health. We understood the weak relation between mindfulness trait measures and prejudice probably reflects the narrow focus of those instruments on the self and being nonjudgmental to oneself.”
In the new study, 213 individuals recruited from Prolific completed an assessment of trait mindfulness. They also completed a measure of nonjudgmental regard towards others, which consisted of two subscales: Ideological Acceptance and Emotion Acceptance.
People high in Ideological Acceptance agree with statements such as “I avoid forming opinions of other people’s intelligence based on what they say” but disagree with statements such as “I tend to evaluate whether other people’s opinions are right or wrong.” People high in Emotion Acceptance, on the other hand, agree with statements such as “I accept other people openly expressing their emotions” and “I feel it is appropriate for people to express any attitude that they like.”
The participants then reported their prejudiced attitudes towards numerous different outgroups such as drug users, people who are overweight, homosexual individuals, and others. They were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “Drug users make me nervous,” “If I were an employer looking to hire, I might avoid hiring a feminist,” “I don’t really like fat people much,” and “Those who have always been living here should have more rights than those who came later.”
The researchers found that greater nonjudgmental regard of others was consistently associated with reduced prejudice towards the various groups. Trait mindfulness, in contrast, only significantly predicted less prejudicial attitudes towards individuals with disabilities.
In a second study, which included a final sample of 273 participants, the researchers sought to replicate and extend their finding by examining whether nonjudgmental regard of others predicted prejudicial attitudes even after accounting for two well-established predictors of prejudice, social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism.
Right-wing authoritarianism is a psychological construct developed in the aftermath of World War II that is characterized by three tendencies: submission to authority, strong adherence to conventions, and aggression directed at those seen as violating social norms. Social dominance orientation is a measure of one’s support for group-based hierarchies and inequality.
Nicol and France found that nonjudgmental regard towards others was predictive of prejudiced attitudes above and beyond the effects of social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism.
Interestingly, the researchers observed that nonjudgmental regard towards others was only weakly correlated with trait mindfulness, which indicated “some construct overlap, but not a lot. This provides evidence that non-judgment and awareness towards the self does not extend to others.”
“Existing instruments of mindfulness may not measure all aspects of mindfulness,” Nicol told PsyPost. “For instance, depending upon how one wants to define mindfulness, it is not just about gaining awareness and being nonjudgmental about one’s self, but also about others. Even though the wellness literature has done a great job in examining how mindfulness can improve mental health, expanding research on mindfulness in other domains may help us to develop a better understanding of mindfulness.”
“We hope other researchers will use the measure we developed and test and refine it further,” she added. “We also hope that this will serve as inspiration to further examine the mindfulness construct and the many measures designed to measure it.”
The study, “Nonjudgmental Regard of Others: Investigating the Links Between Other-Directed Trait Mindfulness and Prejudice“, was authored by Adelheid A. M. Nicol and Kalee De France.