Please wait a minute...
Acta Psychologica Sinica    2019, Vol. 51 Issue (3) : 324-336     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.00324
Reports of Empirical Studies |
Mindfulness training can improve 3-and 4-year-old children’s attention and executive function
LI Quan,SONG Yanan,LIAN Bin,FENG Tingyong()
Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing, 400715, China
Download: PDF(1319 KB)   HTML Review File (1 KB) 
Export: BibTeX | EndNote | Reference Manager | ProCite | RefWorks     Supporting Info

Mindfulness is a technique that alleviates the suffering of the yogi and implements self-awareness. Previous studies found that mindfulness training can improve work efficiency, emotional regulation, attention, and executive function. However, it is still unknown whether mindfulness training can improve attention and executive function in preschool children. This study sought to investigate the effect of mindfulness training for younger children to improve attention and executive function performance.
The present study attempted to use a 2 (group: mindfulness training vs no-training) × 2 (test time:pre vs post) between-and-within-subjects design to investigate the effect of mindfulness training on improving 3-and 4-year-old children’s attention and executive function. The mindfulness training consisted of 12 sessions, with 20~30 minutes per session, and was held twice a week for two months involving 6 preschoolers at a time. The children were assigned to two groups, mindfulness group (N = 26, age range from 41.69 months to 51.42 months, SD = 1.12 months) and control group (N = 26, age range from 41.98 months to 53.98 months, SD = 3.60 months). In the mindfulness training group, the instructor guided children to perform activities of mindfulness, while children in the No-training group were given normal activities. In the study, the mindfulness training course consisted of three parts. Part 1 was “breath and attention” that children learned to master belly breathing and focused attention on specific sensory. Part 2 was “body perception and movement” that children gained balance awareness and body coordinates. Part 3 was “awareness of mental activity” that children learned to relax and perceive each body part. Children’s attention was measured before and after training using an attention task (e.g. Finding Animals Test), and three components of executive function were measured before and after training using three classic tasks (e.g. Inhibition Control: Peach Flower Heart Task, Cognitive Flexibility: Dimensional Change Card Sort Task (DCCS) and Working Memory: WPPSI-VI’s Picture Memory Test).
To investigate whether mindfulness training can enhance children’s attention and executive function, we performed 2 (group: mindfulness training vs no-training) × 2 (test time: pretest vs posttest) repeated measures ANOVA. The results revealed that the interaction between group and test time was significant. An analysis of simple effects further indicated that in the pretest there was no significant effect between mindfulness training group and no-training group. In the posttest, the attention and two components of executive function performances (inhibition control and cognitive flexibility) improved significantly in mindfulness group, while no significant differences were found on attention and three components of executive function in no-training group. The results supported the usefulness of mindfulness training to enhance children’s performances on attention and executive function.
In conclusion, our results suggested the positive effects of mindfulness training on two components of executive function (inhibition control and cognitive flexibility) and attention in preschool children. The results provided important theoretical and practical implications for 3-and 4-year-old children’s attention and executive function.

Keywords mindfulness training      3-and 4-year-old children      attention      executive function     
:  B844.1  
Corresponding Authors: Tingyong FENG     E-mail:
Issue Date: 22 January 2019
E-mail this article
E-mail Alert
Articles by authors
Cite this article:   
LI Quan,SONG Yanan,LIAN Bin,FENG Tingyong. Mindfulness training can improve 3-and 4-year-old children’s attention and executive function[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica,2019, 51(3): 324-336.
URL:     OR
[1] Alloway T. P., Gathercole S. E., Adams A-M., Willis C., Eaglen R., &Lamont E . ( 2005). Working memory and phonological awareness as predictors of progress towards early learning goals at school entry. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 23( 3), 417-426.
[2] Aron A. R., Robbins T. W., &Poldrack R. A . ( 2014). Inhibition and the right inferior frontal cortex. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18( 4), 170-177.
[3] Baddeley A . ( 2013). Working memory and emotion: Ruminations on a theory of depression. Review of General Psychology, 17( 1), 20-27.
[4] Biegel G. M., Brown K. W., Shapiro S. L., &Schubert C. M . ( 2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of adolescent psychiatric outpatients: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 77( 5), 855-866.
[5] Bishop S. R., Lau M., Shapiro S., Carlson L., Anderson N. D., Carmody J., … Devins G. M . ( 2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11( 3), 230-241.
[6] Black D. S., Sussman S., Johnson C. A., &Milam J ., ( 2012). Testing the indirect effect of trait mindfulness on adolescent cigarette smoking through negative affect and perceived stress mediators. Journal of Substance Use, 17( 5-6), 417-429.
[7] Borders A., Earleywine M., &Jajodia A . ( 2010). Could mindfulness decrease anger, hostility, and aggression by decreasing rumination? Aggressive Behavior, 36( 1), 28-44.
[8] Breckenridge K . ( 2007). The structure and function of attention in typical and atypical development (Unpublished PhD Dissertation). University ofLondon.
[9] Breckenridge K., Braddick O., &Atkinson J . ( 2013). The organization of attention in typical development: A new preschool attention test battery. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 31( 3), 271-288.
[10] Brooker J. E., Webber L., Julian J., Shawyer F., Graham A. L., Chan J., &Meadows G . ( 2014). Mindfulness-based training shows promise in assisting staff to reduce their use of restrictive interventions in residential services. Mindfulness, 5( 5), 598-603.
[11] Brown K.W., &Ryan R.M . ( 2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well- being. Journal of Personality Social Psychology, 84( 4), 822-848.
[12] Brown R.P., &Pinel E.C . ( 2003). Stigma on my mind: Individual differences in the experience of stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39( 6), 626-633.
[13] Cameron C. E., Brock L. L., Hatfield B. E., Cottone E. A., Rubinstein E., Locasale-crouch J., &Grissmer D. W . ( 2015). Visuomotor integration and inhibitory control compensate for each other in school readiness. Developmental Psychology, 51( 11), 1529-1543.
[14] Davidson M. C., Amso D., Anderson L. C., &Diamond A . ( 2006). Development of cognitive control and executive functions from 4 to 13 years: Evidence from manipulations of memory, inhibition, and task switching. Neuropsychologia, 44( 11), 2037-2078.
[15] Deikman A . ( 2000). A functional approach to mysticism. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 7( 11-12), 75-92.
[16] Deikman A.J . ( 1963). Experimental meditation. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease. 136( 4), 329-343.
[17] Deloache J. S., Eisenberg N., &Siegler R. S . ( 2010). How children develop (3rd edition). New York:Worth.
[18] Eldar S., Ricon T., &Bar-haim Y . ( 2008). Plasticity in attention: Implications for stress response in children. Behaviour Research & Therapy, 46( 4), 450-461.
[19] Flook L., Goldberg S. B., Pinger L., &Davidson R. J . ( 2015). Promoting prosocial behavior and self-regulatory skills in preschool children through a mindfulness-based kindness curriculum. Developmental Psychology, 51( 1), 44-51.
[20] Friese M., Ostafin B., &Loschelder D . ( 2017). Mindfulness as an intervention to improve self-control. Handbook of self-control in health and well-being(pp.431-445). New York, NY: Routledge.
[21] Good D. J., Lyddy C. J., Glomb T. M., Bono J. E., Brown K. W., &Duffy M. K . ( 2015). Contemplating mindfulness at work: An integrative review. Journal of Management, 42( 1), 114-142.
[22] Huang Y., Li, X D., Wang Y . ( 2002). A follow-up study of sensory integrative dysfunction in children. China Journal Peditrics, 40( 5), 260-262.
[22] [ 黄悦勤, 李旭东, 王玉凤 . ( 2002). 儿童感觉统合失调的随访研究. 中华儿科杂志, 40( 5), 260-262.]
[23] Ivanovski B., &Malhi G.S . ( 2007). The psychological and neurophysiological concomitants of mindfulness forms of meditation. Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 19( 2), 76-91.
[24] Josefsson T., Lindwall M., &Broberg A. G . ( 2014). The effects of a short-term mindfulness based intervention on self-reported mindfulness, decentering, executive attention, psychological health, and coping style: Examining unique mindfulness effects and mediators. Mindfulness, 5( 1), 18-35.
[25] Kabat-Zinn J . ( 1994). Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York:Hyperion.
[26] Kabat-Zinn J . ( 2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology- Science and Practice, 10( 2), 144-156.
[27] Kabat-Zinn J . ( 2005). Bringing mindfulness to medicine: An interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. interview by karolyn gazella. Advances in Mind-body Medicine, 21( 2):22-27.
[28] Kabat-Zinn J . ( 2005). Bringing mindfulness to medicine: An interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. Interview by Karolyn Gazella. Advances in Mind-body Medicine, 21( 2), 22.
[29] Klingberg T., Fernell E., Olesen P. J., Johnson M., Gustafsson P., Dahlström K., &Westerberg H . ( 2005). Computerized training of working memory in children with ADHD-A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 44( 2), 177-186.
[30] Lee J.K., &Orsillo S.M . ( 2014). Investigating cognitive flexibility as a potential mechanism of mindfulness in generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 45( 1), 208-216.
[31] Lenroot R.K., &Giedd J.N . ( 2006). Brain development in children and adolescents: Insights from anatomical magnetic resonance imaging. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 30( 6), 718-729.
[32] Lenroot R. K., Schmitt J. E., Ordaz S. J., Wallace G. L., Neale M. C., Lerch J. P., Giedd J. N . ( 2009). Differences in genetic and environmental influences on the human cerebral cortex associated with development during childhood and adolescence. Human Brain Mapping, 30( 1), 163-174.
[33] Lutz A., Slagter H. A., Dunne J. D., &Davidson R. J . ( 2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12( 4), 163-169.
[34] Modesto-Lowe V., Farahmand P., Chaplin M., &Sarro L . ( 2015). Does mindfulness meditation improve attention in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?. World Journal of Psychiatry, 5( 4), 397-403.
[35] Moore A., &Malinowski P. ( 2009). Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility. Consciousness & Cognition, 18( 1), 176-186.
[36] Moore B.A . ( 2013). Propensity for experiencing flow: The roles of cognitive flexibility and mindfulness . Humanistic Psychologist, 41( 4), 319-332.
[37] Mrazek M. D., Franklin M. S., Phillips D. T., Baird B., &Schooler J. W . ( 2013). Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering. Psychological Science, 24( 5), 776-781.
[38] Mrazek M. D., Smallwood J., &Schooler J. W . ( 2012). Mindfulness and mind-wandering: Finding convergence through opposing constructs. Emotion, 12( 3), 442-448.
[39] Ma C. ( 2013). Comparative study of the executive function training and mindfulness training on the promation of the chilfren's attention (Unpublished Master's thesis). Neimeng Normal University.
[39] [ 马超 . ( 2013). 执行功能训练和正念训练对促进小学儿童注意力的比较研究(硕士论文). 内蒙古师范大学.]
[40] Mao B, B. ( 2009). The investigation and training on 4~6 years old children's sensory integration ability (Unpublished Master's thesis). Shanxi Normal University.
[40] [ 毛斌斌 . ( 2009). 4~6岁幼儿感觉统合能力的调查与训练(硕士论文). 山西师范大学.]
[41] Oh S., &Lewis C. ( 2008). Korean preschoolers’ advanced inhibitory control and its relation to other executive skills and mental state understanding. Child Development, 79( 1), 80-99.
[42] Pascual-Leone A., Amedi A., Fregni F., &Merabet L. B . ( 2005). The plastic human brain cortex. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 28( 28), 377-401.
[43] Pan X,X., Ma H,W . ( 2009). The application of continuous performance task in diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. International Journal of Pediatrics, 36( 1), 100-102.
[43] [ 潘学霞, 麻宏伟 . ( 2009). 持续性操作测验在注意缺陷障碍诊断及治疗中的应用. 国际儿科学杂志, 36( 1), 100-102.]
[44] , Purser R.E., &Milillo J. ( 2015). Mindfulness Revisited: A Buddhist-Based Conceptualization. Journal of Management Inquiry, 24( 1), 3-24.
[45] Razza R. A., Bergen-Cico D., &Raymond K . ( 2015). Enhancing preschoolers’ self-regulation via mindful yoga. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24( 2), 372-385.
[46] Reznick J. S., Morrow J. D., Goldman B. D., &Snyder J . ( 2004). The onset of working memory in infants. Infancy, 6( 1), 145-154.
[47] Robins C. J., Keng S-L., Ekblad A. G., &Brantley J. G . ( 2012). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on emotional experience and expression: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68( 1), 117-131.
[48] Riggs N. R., Black D. S., &Ritt-Olson A . ( 2015). Associations between dispositional mindfulness and executive function in early adolescence. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24( 9), 2745-2751.
[49] Rueda M. R., Checa P., &Cómbita L. M . ( 2012). Enhanced efficiency of the executive attention network after training in preschool children: Immediate changes and effects after two months. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2( 4), S192-S204.
[50] Rueda M. R., Rothbart M. K., Mccandliss B. D., Saccomanno L., &Posner M. I . ( 2005). Training, maturation, and genetic influences on the development of executive attention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102( 41), 14931-14936.
[51] Ruff H. A., Capozzoli M., &Weissberg R . ( 1998). Age, individuality, and context as factors in sustained visual attention during the preschool years. Developmental Psychology, 34( 3), 454-464.
[52] Roth R. M., Randolph J. J., Koven NS., &Isquith PK . ( 2006). Neural substrates of executive functions: Insights from functional neuroimaging. In J. R. Dupri (Ed.), Focus on neuropsychology research( pp.1-36). NY: Nova Science Publishers.
[53] Salamé P., &Baddeley A.D . ( 1982). Disruption of short-term memory by unattended speech: Implications for the structure of working memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 21( 2), 150-164.
[54] Semple R. J., Lee J., Rosa D., &Miller L. F . ( 2010). A randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: Promoting mindful attention to enhance social-emotional resiliency in children. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 19( 2), 218-229.
[55] Shapiro S. L., Carlson L. E., Astin J. A., &Freedman B . ( 2010). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62( 3), 373-386.
[56] Smallwood J., &Schooler J.W . ( 2015). The science of mind wandering: Empirically navigating the stream of consciousness. Annual Review of Psychology, 66( 1), 487-518.
[57] Tang Y-Y., Tang Y., Tang R., &Lewis-peacock J. A . ( 2017). Brief mental training reorganizes large-scale brain networks. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 11, 6. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2017.00006.
[58] Tang Y. Y., Yang L., Leve L. D., &Harold G. T . ( 2012). Improving executive function and its neurobiological mechanisms through a mindfulness-based intervention: Advances within the field of developmental neuroscience. Child Development Perspectives, 6( 4), 361-366.
[59] Ying H.K., &Wang C. K.J . ( 2012). Relationships between mindfulness, flow dispositions and mental skills adoption: A cluster analytic approach. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 9( 4), 393-411.
[60] Thurman S.K., &Torsney B.M . ( 2014). Meditation, mindfulness and executive functions in children and adolescents. In N. N. Singh (Ed.), Psychology of meditation( pp. 187-207). New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
[61] Van de Weijer-Bergsma E., Formsma A. R., de Bruin E. I., &Bögels S. M . ( 2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training on behavioral problems and attentional functioning in adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 21( 5), 775-787.
[62] Wang Y., Xin T-T., Liu, X-H. Zhang Y., Lu H-H., &Zhai Y-B . ( 2012). Mindfulness can reduce automatic responding: Evidences from stroop task and prospective memory task. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 44( 9), 1180-1188
[62] [ 王岩, 辛婷婷, 刘兴华, 张韵, 卢焕华, 翟彦斌 . ( 2012). 正念训练的去自动化效应: Stroop和前瞻记忆任务证据. 心理学报, 44( 9), 1180-1188. ]
[63] Wechsler D .( 2003). Wechsler intelligence scale for children- Fourth Edition (WISC-IV). San Antonio:The Psychological Corporation.
[64] Westbrook C., Creswell J. D., Tabibnia G., Julson E., Kober H., &Tindle H. A . ( 2013). Mindful attention reduces neural and self-reported cue-induced craving in smokers. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 8( 1), 73-84.
[65] Wood A.G., Smith E. ( 2008). Executive functions and the frontal lobes: A lifespan perspective (pp. 203-216). Philadelphia, PA: Taylor &Francis.
[66] Wu J,J.., &Zheng R,C. ( 2008). The review of mental awareness intervention. Chinese Mental Health Journal, 22( 2), 148-151.
[66] [ 吴九君, 郑日昌 . ( 2008). 心智觉知干预述评. 中国心理卫生杂志, 22( 2), 148-151.]
[67] Yang L,Z., Song, H. ( 2003). Development on preschool children's self-control ability. Studies of Psychology and Behavior, 4( 1), 51-56.
[67] [ 杨丽珠, 宋辉 . ( 2003). 幼儿自我控制能力发展的研究. 心理与行为研究, 4( 1), 51-56.]
[68] Zeidan F., Gordon N. S., Merchant J., &Goolkasian P . ( 2010). The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain. Journal of Pain, 11( 3), 199-209.
[69] Zeidan F., Johnson S. K., Diamond B. J., David Z., &Goolkasian P . ( 2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition, 19( 2), 597-605.
[70] Zelazo P.D . ( 2006). The dimensional change card sort (DCCS): A method of assessing executive function in children. Nature Protocol, 1( 1), 297-301.
[71] Zelazo P. D., Anderson J. E., Richler J., Wallner-allen K., Beaumont J. L., &Weintraub S . ( 2013). II. NIH toolbox cognition battery (CB): Measuring executive function and attention. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 78( 4), 16-33.
[72] Zelazo P.D., &Lyons K.E . ( 2012). The potential benefits of mindfulness training in early childhood: A Developmental social cognitive neuroscience perspective. Child Development Perspectives, 6( 2), 154-160.
[73] Zelazo P. D., Müller U., Frye D., Marcovitch S., Argitis G., Boseovski J., Sutherland A . ( 2003). The development of executive function in early childhood. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 68( 3), 48-64.
[74] Zheng, X,X., Li, Y.Q. . ( 1991). The manual of children's sensory development chechlist implementation. Taipei: The special education center of Taipei city normal college.
[74] [ 郑信雄, 李月卿 . ( 1991). 儿童感觉发展检核表实施手册. 台北:台北市立师范学院特殊教育中心. ]
[75] Zoogman S., Goldberg S. B., Hoyt W. T., &Miller L . ( 2015). Mindfulness interventions with youth: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 6( 2), 290-302.
[1] LEI Yi, XIA Qi, MO Zhifeng, LI Hong. The attention bias effect of infant face: The mechanism of cuteness and familiarity[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(7): 811-822.
[2] TANG Xiaoyu, WU Yingnan, PENG Xing, WANG Aijun, LI Qi. The influence of endogenous spatial cue validity on audiovisual integration[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(7): 835-846.
[3] HUANG Yanqing, MENG Yingfang. Effects of target detection on memory retrieval[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(6): 706-715.
[4] LI Yaojin, ZHANG Wei, FU Bei, Zhou Bingping. Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in internal and external conflicts: Evidence from Saccade task[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(6): 777-785.
[5] ZHENG Xutao,GUO Wenjiao,CHEN Man,JIN Jia,YIN Jun. Influence of the valence of social actions on attentional capture: Focus on helping and hindering actions[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(5): 584-596.
[6] YE Chaoxiong,HU Zhonghua,LIANG Tengfei,ZHANG Jiafeng,XU Qianru,LIU Qiang. The mechanism of retro-cue effect in visual working memory: Cognitive phase separation[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(4): 399-413.
[7] ZHAO Xin,LI Hongli,JIN Ge,LI Shifeng,ZHOU Aibao,LIANG Wenjia,GUO Hongxia,CAI Yaya. Effects of phonological memory and central executive function on decoding, language comprehension of children in different grades[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(4): 469-484.
[8] Xiaoyu TANG,Jiaying SUN,Xing PENG. The effect of bimodal divided attention on inhibition of return with audiovisual targets[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(3): 257-268.
[9] MENG Yingfang,YE Xiumin,MA Huijiao. Comparing the attentional boost effect between classified learning and mixed learning[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(2): 139-148.
[10] XIAO Rong,LIANG Dandan,LI Shanpeng. Effects of aging on the Mandarin lexical tone perception: Evidence from ERPs[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(1): 1-11.
[11] LUO Yu,NIAN Jingqing,BAO Wei,ZHANG Jingjing,ZHAO Shouying,PAN Yun,XU Shuang,ZHANG Yu. Acute psychological stress impairs attention disengagement toward threat-related stimuli[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(1): 26-37.
[12] WANG Ting,ZHI Fengying,LU Yutong,ZHANG Jijia. Effect of Dong Chorus on the executive function of Dong high school students[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(9): 1040-1056.
[13] LIU Jingyuan,LI Hong. How state anxiety influences time perception: Moderated mediating effect of cognitive appraisal and attentional bias[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(7): 747-758.
[14] PENG Xing,CHANG Ruosong,LI Qi,WANG Aijun,TANG Xiaoyu. Visually induced inhibition of return affects the audiovisual integration under different SOA conditions[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(7): 759-771.
[15] ZHANG Di,HAO Renning,LIU Qiang. The effects of the attention resource allocation on visual working memory consolidation process[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(7): 772-780.
Full text



Copyright © Acta Psychologica Sinica
Support by Beijing Magtech