People Who Meditate and Do Yoga Have Bigger Egos, Study Finds

A new study has revealed that meditation and yoga boosts people’s egos, contradicting the Buddhist teaching that such practices foster well-being by “quieting” the self.

The study, set to be published in the journal Psychological Science, examined this ego-quieting assumption against the self-centrality principle, which asserts that the practice of any skill makes it self-central, and consequently, breeds self-enhancement.

Researchers at the University of Mannheim in Germany carried out two experiments. First, they followed 93 yoga students for 15 weeks, assessing their level of self-enhancement after and without practice.

They measured self-enhancement in three ways: by comparing to the “average” yoga student, assessing narcissistic tendencies and administering a self-esteem scale. As it turned out, students showed significantly higher self-enhancement in the hour after practice, compared to non-practice in the previous 24 hours.

The second experiment followed 162 meditators, pooled from various related Facebook groups, in four weeks. Researchers administered another assessment scale that measured self-enhancement, which included items like “How central is it for you to be free from bias?” Apparently, the meditators also showed higher self-enhancement in the hour after practice, compared to non-practice in the previous 24 hours.

Interestingly, the researchers also assessed the participants’ well-being in two categories, namely (1) hedonic and (2) eudemonic. Hedonic well-being consists of affective and cognitive components, which includes items like “I am happy” and “The conditions of my life are excellent.”

Eudemonic well-being, on the other hand, consists of six components, namely (1) autonomy, (2) environmental mastery, (3) personal growth, (4) positive relations with others, (5) purpose in life and (6) self-acceptance. The measure includes items such as “For me, life has been a continuous process of learning, changing, and growth.”

Researchers found that well-being increased with self-enhancement, implying a link established through meditation (which supposedly improves well-being).

“Self-enhancement was higher in the yoga (Experiment 1) and meditation (Experiment 2) conditions, and those effects were mediated by greater self-centrality. Additionally, greater self-enhancement mediated mind-body practices’ well-being benefits,” the researchers wrote.

“Evidently, neither yoga nor meditation quiet the ego; instead, they boost self-enhancement.”

A copy of the study was published by the University of Southampton in the U.K.

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