What is the relationship between mindfulness and counterproductive student behaviour?

Published: 2019/12/11 Number of words: 2812


Mindfulness has become paradigmatic for much research and scholarship connecting the concept to a wide range of behavioural outcomes. The optimisation of students in higher education can have a wide range of positive outcomes including moral, political and economic benefits. Students’ academic performance, specifically in higher education, has become a major concern among policy makers and key stake holders. Thus, understanding and identifying particular student personality traits and characteristics associated with both low and high academic performance is a sine qua non for drafting suitable policies which will tackle this problem. An online survey will be conducted in order to acquire information concerning students’ mindfulness skills, grade point averages, and counterproductive behaviour. Three main hypothesis will be proposed; firstly that that more mindful students will exert less counterproductive behaviour. Secondly, mindfulness will be likely to correlate to specific personality traits. And thirdly, that higher mindfulness will correlate to higher Grade Point Average (GPA). This study could inform practitioners, clinicians and key academic stakeholders and other health professionals about the viability and efficacy of mindfulness in academic settings. It is hoped that this study sets the tone, and acts as a catalyst for future and more research investigating the relationship between mindfulness and counterproductive behaviour.


Mindfulness refers to a state of implicit awareness of present context and informational content (Langer, 1989). This concept has generated much research and scholarship relating to psychotherapy and students academic performance. Mindfulness interventions have been increasingly been supported by a growing body of empirical literature. Moreover, it is gradually being established in the mainstream as viable therapeutic intervention. Perhaps one of the best examples is the study conducted by Bakosh (2013) who found that mindfulness practices exerted a positive impact on students’ academic performance and subsequent success. It has also been found that mindfulness can in fact reduce student’s stress and burnout, particularly on students training to become therapists (Shapiro, Brown & Biegel, 2007). Similarly, Palmer (2009) also found individual differences in students’ mindful skills. More specifically, Palmer found a significant positive relationship between mindfulness and ‘rational’ coping strategies for stress. Yet in another study presented by Beauchemin, Hutchins and Patterson (2008) it was found that mindfulness meditation improves academic, lessens anxiety and promote social skills of students with learning disabilities. These results were also consistent with those of Rosenzweig et al (2003) whose study revealed that mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques can lower psychological distress in medical students. The vast majority of studies devoted to this topic tend to focus solely on positive outcomes resulting from mindfulness interventions. Little or no studies at all have attempted to investigate the link between mindfulness and student counterproductive behaviour, specifically at higher education level. Thus, the existing gap in the literature warrants further investigating within this domain. Moreover, the importance of conducting the present study lies on its ability to expand one’s still limited knowledge concerning the connection between mindfulness and the characteristics and personality traits associated with academic success or failure. This study may provide robust, tangible and practical information which could potentially inform the decision making process of clinicians, therapists, key academic stake holders and other health professionals.

Literature Review

The growing body of empirical literature connecting mindfulness to students’ academic performance seem to consistently have demonstrated that there are many positive outcomes connected to mindfulness-based interventions. For instance, in a well-known study conducted by Bakosh (2013) it was found that mindfulness practices exert a positive impact on students’ academic performance and subsequent success. In this respect, Bakosh examined a total of 337 students from two schools. Her study revealed that there was significant mindfulness intervention effect on the grade point average of students (School A [N= 131]) between the mindfulness intervention (n= 64, M=2.7995, SD= 3.13), and control groups (N = 67, M = .0448, SD = 2.61); t (129) = 5.48, p < .001 (2-tailed), 99% CI [1.76, 3.75], d = .96. The other school included in this study (School B [N=206]) showed near significant mindfulness intervention effect on grade point average changes (between treatment [n = 103, M = .0357, SD = .065], control group [n = 103, M = .0091, SD= .126], t[204] = 1.91, p = .058 [2-tailed], 95% CI [-.001, .054], d = .27). These patterns of results further corroborate the fact that there is an extricable link between students’ academic performance and mindfulness. Another interesting study was conducted by Beauchemin et al (2008) who investigated the ways in which mindful-based interventions could impact academic performance on students with learning disabilities. Beauchemin et al studied a sample of 34 high school students (age range, 13 to18 years; mean, 16.61 years) diagnosed with learning disabilities (LD). Measures included Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), The State–Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), and a wide range of other attitudinal questions. Results from t-tests comparing pretests and posttests indicated that trait anxiety scores were significantly higher in pretests (M = 42.56) compared with posttest (M = 39.68), t(33) = 2.88, p < .05. Conversely, state anxiety scores were significantly higher at prettests (M = 38.21) compared with posttest (M = 32.59), t(33) = 4.88, p < .05. These results add further weight to the importance and viability of considering mindful-based interventions in academic settings. It is also interesting to notice that Rosenzweig et al (2003) postulated that mindfulness-based stress reduction lowers psychological distress in medical students. This is one of the few studies which investigated the connection between mindfulness and academic performance in higher education. However, what if any, is the relationship between mindfulness, student counterproductive behaviour and/or academic performance? Previous studies have focused predominantly upon behavioural outcomes from interventions. Little research has devoted its attention to investigate these three factors (mindfulness, counterproductive behaviour, and academic performance). Thus, the gap in existing literature warrants further research in this area. Findings from this study could have important implications for drafting of policies aimed at tackling issues relating to poor academic performance.



Participants (N=100) will be drawn from a population of university students from a variety of universities worldwide, enrolled in a broad range of courses. Students will be drawn from a non-clinical population, and will be generally not trained in mindfulness meditation. Only participants who fully complete the 12-day study will be included in the final data analysis. Participation will be entirely voluntary as there will be no be remuneration.

Procedures & Measures

A diary study will take place throughout a 12-day period. Seven days will be allocated to investigating students before their respective exams, one day (actual exam day) will also be allocated for investigating students mindfulness skills on their examination day. Furthermore, four days will also be allocated for investigating the period following the examination day. In this way all participants taking part in this study will be taking their examinations on the 8th day of the survey. This will enable this study to establish a baseline or control for relevant data. Data concerning participants’ demographic information will be collected via an online questionnaire on the first day of the study. Here, participants will be required to provide information concerning their age, gender, country of residence, current university, highest and lowest possible grade at current university, as well as their own grade point average.


A number of questionnaires will be administered as part of the online survey. These include HEXACO Personality Inventory (HEXACO-PI), Counterproductive Behaviour Inventory (CPBI), and Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS). The personality scale HEXACO-PI will be administered only once, and this will be at the first day of the study, at the start of the online survey. Throughout the remaining days of the study other questionnaires will be administered. These will include Counterproductive Behaviour Inventory (CPBI), and Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS).

Counterproductive Behaviour Inventory (CPBI)

Items from the CPBI will included as part of the conducted survey. The CPBI is an adaptation of a questionnaire developed by Bennett and Robinson (2000) as means of studying deviance in the workplace. This questionnaire uses a 5-point response scale comprising of the following: 1- never, 2- seldom, 3- sometimes, 4- often, 5- very often.

The Hexaco Personality Inventory (HEXACO-PI)

The HEXACO-PI as proposed by Lee & Ahston (2004) is a known operationalisation of the HEXACO model. This revised version consists of a 60-item which are divided equally among 6 different dimensions. It has been found that the psychometric properties of this instrument have high internal consistency and construct validity (Boies et al, 2004; Lee, Ashton, & De Vries, 2005). In this way, the model of personality structure proposed by the HEXACO-PI contain six dimensions which define its acronym: Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), eXtraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O). It is also well documented that HEXACO-PI showed adequate convergent validity with external variables with the highest correlation coefficients being attributed to Extraversion (r = .86), followed by Conscientiousness (r = .83). (Lee & Ashton, 2004).

Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS)

KIMS will also be administered in this study in order to assess students’ mindfulness in daily life via four dimensions including; accepting experiences and events without judging them, acting with awareness and undivided attention, observation of both external and internal stimuli, and labelling and describing phenomena non-judgementally. In this way, the KIMS measures four basic skills: observing (OBS), accepting without judgement (AWJ), describing (DES) and acting with awareness (AWA) (Baer, Smith, & Allen, 2004). The present KIMS will consist of nine items measuring the aforementioned mindful skills where students will be required were required to report their answers in 6-point Likert scale (1-almost never; 2-very infrequently, 3-somewhat infrequently, 4-somewhat frequently, 5-very frequently, 6-almost always). A study conducted by Strohle et al.(2010) has demonstrated that the KMIS shows a good range of internal consistency in terms of Cronbach’s alpha (α=.81-.89).


h1- It is hypothesised that more mindful students will exert less counterproductive behaviour.

h2- Second hypothesis postulates that that mindfulness will be likely to correlate to specific personality traits.

h3- Higher mindfulness scores will be associated with higher Grade Point Averages (GPA).

Independent Variable (IV): Mindfulness

Dependent Variables (DV): Grade Point Average, Counterproductive Student Behaviour, Personality Traits

Statistical Procedure

Statistical analysis of collected quantitative data will be carried out with IBM SPSS package (version 22). In particular, Pearson correlation tests will be carried out to investigate the relationship between relationship between mindfulness and counterproductive student behaviour. Correlation tests will also be carried to determine the relationship between mindfulness and personality traits, and mindfulness and grade point average. Criterion α (alpha) level for statistical significance of correlations will be set at p≤ 0.05. In addition, correlations will be ranked according to their meaningfulness in the following fashion of correlations; as r= trivial (0.0), small (0.1), moderate (0.3), strong (0.5), very strong (0.7), nearly perfect (0.9), and perfect (1.0) (Hopkins, 2004).

Ethical Considerations

Ethics is a component of this study that will be given serious consideration given that research will be carried out on human participants. In order to assure it satisfies the requirements for conducting research on human participants the study will undergo institutional review via the university’s ethics committee. This will enable the achieving of an adequate balance between participant’s needs and the needs of this study. Informed consent will be obtained from participants prior to carrying out the study. More specifically, their full consent will be obtained through their completion of the online questionnaires throughout the 12-day period of this study. Participants will be made aware of their right to from the study and refusal to answer any questions. Information collected through questionnaires will be kept safe and strictly confidential, and anonymity will also be assured. Instructions on how to fill in the online questionnaire will be set clearly and objectively as to not mislead participants in any possible way. In general ethical guidelines stipulated by the American Psychological Society (APA) will be strictly observed at all times. Should an instance of a potential ethical dilemma arise a research supervisor will be contacted immediately.


The growing body of empirical literature has systematically neglected the importance of understanding mindfulness related behavioural outcomes on university students. The scarce research in this area is solely confined to investigating primary and high school children. Little or no research has actually investigated the relationship between mindfulness and personality traits, counterproductive behaviour, and grade point average in the higher education domain. Thus, this gap in the growing body of empirical literature warrants further investigation and, theoretical, and academic scrutiny. This study may provide useful insights into understanding the way in which students cope and manage stress. In addition, it may also demonstrate that effectiveness with which stress is managed can exert a considerable impact upon students’ academic performance. Furthermore, this study could also inform practitioners, clinicians and key academic stakeholders and other health professionals about the viability and efficacy of mindfulness in academic settings. It is hoped that this study will inform, set guidelines, and act as a catalyst for future and more research investigating the relationship between mindfulness and counterproductive behaviour. Finally, future studies should combine both quantitative and qualitative methodologies when researching this topic in particular. It is possible that the use of mixed methods may complement each other, and thus provide deeper insights into the phenomenology surrounding the association between mindfulness and student counterproductive behaviour.


Bakosh, L. S. (2013) Investigating the Effects of a Daily Audio-Guided Mindfulness Intervention for Elementary School. [Online] Available at: http://media.proquest.com/media/pq/classic/doc/3319950641/fmt/ai/rep/NPDF?_s=EED6o9XLDtDombvzZMGRisrYcxg%3D (Accessed, 25th June, 2014).

Beauchemin, J., Hutchins, T. L., & Patterson, F. (2008). Mindfulness meditation may lessen anxiety, promote social skills, and improve academic performance among adolescents with learning disabilities. Complementary Health Practice Review, Vol.13(1),pp. 34-45.

Bennett, R. J., & Robinson, S. L. (2000). Development of a measure ofworkplace deviance. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol.85, 349–360.

Boies, K., Yoo, T. Y., Ebacher, A., Lee, K., & Ashton, M. C. (2004). Psychometricproperties of scores on the French and Korean versions of the HEXACOPersonality Inventory. Educational and Psychological Measurement, Vol.64, pp.992–1006.

Hopkins, J. (2004). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13(1), 27-45.

Lee, K., Ashton, M. C (2004) Psychometric Properties of theHEXACO Personality InventoryMultivariate behavioural Research, Vol.39 (2), pp.329-358

Palmer, A. (2009) Mindfulness, Stress, and Coping Among University Students. Canadian Journal of Counselling. Vol. 43, pp.3

Rosenzweig, S., Reibel, D. K., Greeson, J. M., Brainard, G. C., & Hojat, M. (2003). Mindfulness-based stress reduction lowers psychological distress in medical students. Teaching and learning in medicine, Vol.15(2), pp.88-92.

Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers:Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists intraining.Training and Education in Professional Psychology, Vol. 1, pp.105-115.


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