Paying Attention to the Self: a Systematic Review of the Study of the Self in Mindfulness Research

Huma Shireen, Sabrah Khanyari, Amadea Vance, Hanna Johannesson, Christian Preissner, Yair Dor-Ziderman, Bassam Khoury, Bärbel Knäuper

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: One of the primary goals of Buddhist-inspired mindfulness practice is to enable practitioners to gain insight into the nature of the self and, as a result, increase their wellbeing. To empirically investigate how mindfulness impacts the self, researchers must effectively explicate the self and hone the methods used to study it. The current study systematically reviews the conceptualization and study of the self within the mindfulness literature. Methods: Searches were carried out in PsycINFO, MEDLINE, and EMBASE databases. All empirical and non-empirical studies available in full text that included a conceptualization of the self within a mindfulness-based framework or intervention were included. The outcomes were theories of the self that were examined using a narrative synthesis. Results: A total of 51 empirical and 63 non-empirical articles were identified as directly investigating the self within the mindfulness literature. Of these, most studies investigated intrapersonal aspects of the self, followed by relational and transcendental aspects. The greatest complexity in the way that the self was studied and the highest integration between theoretical and empirical investigations was seen in the study of intrapersonal aspects, followed by relational and transcendental aspects. With regard to the way in which theories inform empirical investigations, most empirical studies were informed by neuroscience and psychological theories rather than Buddhist-based theories. Conclusions: The results highlight a need for a more holistic approach in the study of the self by incorporating different aspects of the self and by better integrating theories of the self and their related empirical investigations. Systematic review registration: PROSPERO 2019; ID: 192,073.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1373-1386
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Conceptualization
  • Mindfulness
  • Self
  • Systematic review
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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