Brief quiet ego contemplation reduces oxidative stress and mind-wandering

Heidi A. Wayment, Ann F. Collier, Melissa Birkett, Tinna Traustadóttir, Robert E. Till

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Excessive self-concern increases perceptions of threat and defensiveness. In contrast, fostering a more inclusive and expanded sense of self can reduce stress and improve well-being. We developed and tested a novel brief intervention designed to strengthen a student’s compassionate self-identity, an identity that values balance and growth by reminding them of four quiet ego characteristics: detached awareness, inclusive identity, perspective taking, and growth. Students (N = 32) in their first semester of college who reported greater self-protective (e.g., defensive) goals in the first 2 weeks of the semester were invited to participate in the study. Volunteers were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: quiet ego contemplation (QEC), QEC with virtual reality (VR) headset (QEC-VR), and control. Participants came to the lab three times to engage in a 15-min exercise in a 30-days period. The 15-min QEC briefly described each quiet ego characteristic followed by a few minutes time to reflect on what that characteristic meant to them. Those in the QEC condition reported improved quiet ego characteristics and pluralistic thinking, decreases in a urinary marker of oxidative stress, and reduced mind-wandering on a cognitive task. Contrary to expectation, participants who wore the VR headsets while listening to the QEC demonstrated the least improvement. Results suggest that a brief intervention that reduces self-focus and strengthens a more compassionate self-view may offer an additional resource that individuals can use in their everyday lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1481
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Sep 30 2015


  • SART
  • brief intervention
  • compassionate self-identity
  • oxidative stress
  • quiet ego

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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