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A Meditation on Multidisciplinarity, in the Context of a School-Based Meditation Intervention (WP-24-04)

Sarah Collier Villaume, Aurelie Ouss, Jonathan Guryan, and Emma Adam

In this paper, the researchers share insights from a multidisciplinary collaboration between developmental psychologists and economists. Together, they designed and implemented a randomized controlled trial (RCT), in a school-based setting, of the effects of transcendental meditation on perceived and biological indicators of stress, as well as health and academic outcomes. Through the lens of the study that resulted, they describe the process, challenges, and advantages of their collaboration. They also present novel results on the effect of the meditation RCT on one physiological marker of stress and health: blood pressure. Overall, intent to treat impacts were modest and not statistically significant for the full sample; they observed an impact on systolic blood pressure (SBP) of -2.37 mm Hg (0.21 SD). Additionally, blood pressure reductions were large and statistically significant for certain subgroups, including for Black students and those with obese body mass index, two groups at elevated risk for early onset of hypertension. In addition to substantive results, the researchers offer insights and recommendations for others who may take on multidisciplinary research in the future.

Sarah Collier Villaume, Postdoctoral Scholar, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University

Aurelie Ouss, Janice and Julian Bers Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania

Jonathan Guryan, Lawyer Taylor Professor of Education and Social Policy and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Emma Adam, Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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