A new paper says that people who are aware of their own thoughts and emotions - mindful  - show less neural response to positive feedback than their less mindful peers. 

That means they are typically less impulsive.

Trait mindfulness is characterized by an ability to recognize and accept one's thoughts and emotions without judgment. Mindful individuals are much better at letting their feelings and thoughts go rather than getting carried away.

Using electroencephalography (EEG), the brain activity of students was recorded while they completed a reaction time task on a computer. The authors were interested in participants' brain activity in response to receiving performance feedback that was rewarding, neutral or negative in nature. Not only were mindful individuals less responsive to rewarding feedback compared to others, they also showed less difference in their neural response to neutral versus rewarding feedback.

University of Toronto Scarborough Ph.D. candidate Rimma Teper administers a test on a study participant. Credit: Ken Jones

The findings also reflect further clinical research that supports the notion of accepting one's emotions is an important indicator of mental well-being.

"Individuals who are problem gamblers for instance show more brain reactivity to immediate rewards, because they are typically more impulsive," says University of Toronto Scarborough Ph.D. candidate Rimma Teper.

"Many studies, including our own past work, have shown that people who meditate, and mindful individuals exhibit improved self-control. If mindful individuals are also less affected by immediate rewards, as our study suggests, this may help explain why," says Teper's Ph.D. supervisor and University of Toronto Scarborough psychology professor Michael Inzlicht.

Upcoming in the journal Emotion.