Fireside Meditations

Meghan Steel of University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and Christopher D Lynn of University of Alabama

Fireside Meditations: the Induction of a Relaxation Response By Focused Attention On a Flickering Light and Novel Sound Phenomenon

The ability to control fire would have given Homo sapiens a distinct advantage over competitors as it extended the working period of the day, kept away predators lurking in the darkness, and increased the nutritional value of food through the ability to cook meat and vegetables. Fireside relaxation, however, may have played an even greater role in human cognitive development as the hypnotic trance it induced could have led to more cognitive fluidity, a greater working memory, and even the ability to heal the body through ritual and meditation. This study investigates the relaxation response as it is induced by directing a participant’s attention to a simulated fireside situation. The relaxation response is monitored through physiological changes that occur while the participant watches-in random ordered five minute sessions, a blank control screen, a fire video with full sound, and a fire video with muted sound. The physiological change on which this phase of the study focused includes point-changes in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The current data show a significant drop in blood pressure associated with the fire with full sound session, implying that it is the combination of flickering light and novel sound that induce this relaxation response since the fire video with muted sound showed no significant difference when compared with the blank controlled screen. This study is currently running in its next stage, using fifteen minute sessions. We will also soon combine the physiological responses with survey data containing information on religiosity, pro-sociality, and current/normal mood.  [Text Originally in the AAA 2013 Program]