The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)

Mindful Attention Awareness ScaleEver found yourself driving and suddenly unaware of how you got to your present location?

Do you find yourself walking fast to get somewhere and missing the experience of getting there?

How about plowing through your meal without tasting it?

We are all susceptible to the “busyness” of life and the detachment from the valuable and satisfying experience of our daily lives. Our brains tend to go on autopilot to conserve energy. By saving energy, our minds are robbing us of the delicious moment-to-moment experience that improves psychological and physical wellbeing.

While humans vary in their abilities in trait mindfulness, those who have effectively cultivated it live lives with higher levels of autonomy, pleasant affect, vitality, and satisfaction.

The most popular scale to measure mindfulness is the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale. It has been validated across cultures and age groups. It has been helpful in various areas of research, especially in self-determination theory and consciousness. It can be useful in helping people discover a baseline to cultivate this inherent human ability.

Let’s explore how the MAAS can give you an indication of a baseline in mindfulness, and how this scoring can help improve your moment-to-moment experiences.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Mindfulness Exercises for free. These science-based, comprehensive exercises will not only help you cultivate a sense of inner peace throughout your daily life but will also give you the tools to enhance the mindfulness of your clients, students, or employees.

What is the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale?

The research that created the MAAS investigated mindfulness as an attribute that varies between and within people (Brown, Ryan, 2003). Humans vary in attention and awareness to present events and experiences. The inherent capability differs in individuals due to levels of discipline, self-regulation, and personality.

The MAAS assesses individual differences in the frequency of mindful states over time. The scale is a 15-item (1-6 Likert scale) questionnaire to assess dispositional (or trait) mindfulness. The measurements from the MAAS tap consciousness related to self-regulation and various areas of wellbeing.

As a trait, it is shown that some individuals are more proficient at putting themselves into a state of mindfulness than others. It is also suggested that the willingness and practice of mindfulness varied as well. Focusing our internal radar is a skill that can be improved.

This scale is based around the understanding that all humans have a “radar” for internal and external experience, which is awareness. Consciousness is built through harnessing the focusing of that awareness, which is attention. Mindfulness is enhanced attention to and awareness of current experience or the present moment.

This scale intentionally excludes mood, attitude, and motivation to keep dispositional mindfulness neutral as a construct. The MAAS measures one’s tendency toward mindfulness or mindlessness. Scores of the MAAS strongly correlate with self-consciousness, rumination, and self-reflection.

Those scoring higher in mindfulness tend to report higher levels of pleasant affect, higher self-esteem, optimism, and self-actualization. Also, lower levels of neuroticism, anxiety, depression, and unpleasant affect are reported in those scoring higher in mindfulness.

Some of the basic needs of humans like autonomy, relatedness, and competence are typically met in someone who has a higher tendency to pursue the practice of mindfulness actively.

A Brief Look at the Authors Brown and Ryan

Research in mindfulness has taken vast leaps since the introduction of the MAAS in 2003.

The authors of this scale are continuing their excellent research and initiatives to better understand mindfulness and its role in self-determination theory and human consciousness. Their valuable work continues to improve our understanding for improvements in wellbeing practices.

Kirk Warren Brown, Ph.D. is an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. He continues to be interested in consciousness and its role in human functioning. The research in social psychology surrounding mindfulness and its effect on compassion and emotional self-regulation continues to intrigue him and his colleagues.

Community-wide interventions in mindfulness practices have been improving the world around this research. A recent article about kindness and strangers showed the role of mindfulness in outreach. The impact of this research is far-reaching.

Richard M Ryan, Ph.D. continues to research self-determination theory and its relationship to mindfulness. His research on human motivation is world-renowned. He is considered an expert in the field. He continues his work as a professor at the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education, Australian Catholic University, North Sydney.

Self-determination theory and its applications can be found in the following areas: education, healthcare, relationships, psychotherapy, psychopathology, organizations, sports & exercise, goals, health & wellbeing, and the environment. It is an exciting area of research. The development of interventions and programs to affect change is profound.

When asked about his research since 2003, Dr. Ryan was kind enough to reply:

Our interest in mindfulness relates to our broader view within self-determination theory that awareness contributes both autonomous regulation (because with greater awareness people make better choices and act with more congruence) and wellness (because mindful awareness helps us both avoid bad experiences, and better appreciate and savor good ones). So since 2003, we have been expanding our research in the connections between both mindful awareness and interested self-reflection on peoples quality of experience and behavior.”

When asked how practitioners might utilize the MAAS in real-life settings such as coaching, Dr. Ryan replied with the following:

The MAAS is pretty straightforward, so it might be of interest to people as a change score. We haven’t used it that way in research, but it might be a good “mirror” or at least point of discussion and interest.

In 2015, Brown and Ryan edited The Handbook of Mindfulness: Theory, Research, and Practice. This book explores the evolving field of study of mindfulness and its application in improving life satisfaction. Interventions for behavioral and emotion dysregulation disorders like depression, anxiety, addictions, and physical health conditions are examined.

As their work continues to improve practitioners’ understanding of the role of mindfulness in wellbeing, further interventions can be developed. The more we know about consciousness, the more we can harness the benefits in wellbeing, and how a deeper understanding of awareness and attention improves humans.

How Does the Scoring Work?

To score the MAAS, a mean of the 15 items (collected in a Likert scale) is calculated. For those who may not be mathematically minded, the mean equals the sum of the answers divided by the total number of questions (15). Higher scores reflect higher levels of dispositional mindfulness. With these higher scores also come lower reported negative emotional states.

Average scores for undergraduate students in the research were 3,85. Zen meditators scored an average of 4,38. Statistically, those who actively participated in mindfulness activities reportedly had fewer and less intense instances of negative emotional experience. Also, a study done on people living with cancer showed that those awake to their mortality increase the moment-to-moment appreciation of their lives.

A Look at the Validity and Reliability of the MAAS

Any self-report measurement allows for the difficulty in accuracy. Though the scale requests that the participant reflects on their experiences as they are, rather than how they think they should be, humans tend to answer inaccurately where subjective experience is concerned. It is exceedingly difficult to measure “present” state in a “post” state manner.

A deeper understanding of mindfulness and its role in self-determination theory has been helpful in many different areas, including but not limited to the adherence to medical recommendations.

Validation of the scale’s usefulness in a cancer patient study showed improved wellbeing in patients more attuned to their internal and external experience. Facing mortality allows for increased mindfulness practice and with-it adherence to suggested treatments.

The scale has been validated among college students, community adults, and cancer patients, and it has been translated into at least five different languages.

It has also been adapted to consider adolescent and child perspective, as there is burgeoning research in the field of childhood interventions in mindfulness practice (Brown, 2011). Benefits in teaching children and adolescents mindfulness activities are far-reaching and incredibly effective.

Having this scale validated in many different areas has led to further research and vital development of positive psychology interventions. Adhering to the basic scientific principle that a phenomenon can be studied only if it can be adequately defined and measured, gives a more significant validation to the field of mindfulness and consciousness as a significant area of further scientific study.

Where Can I Find the Questionnaire Online? (PDF)

Here is a link to the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale for adults, plus we have more mindfulness questionnaires and scales on our own blog for you to enjoy.

A Take-Home Message

The Mindful Awareness Attention Scale has advanced research in positive psychology, social psychology, and child psychology since 2003.

More exciting research is being done within self-determination theory and human motivation to provide further measurable science to develop continued interventions and improvement in human beings. The more we know about the construct, the more effective the practice of mindfulness can become.

More conscious humans in the world will create a better world. When people are more aware of their internal experience, their motivation, and their personal ability to show up exactly as they want will create ripples in the humans around them. We, as practitioners, have the science at our fingertips and can utilize the MAAS as a baseline to create change.

Thanks for reading!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Mindfulness Exercises for free.

References

  • Brown, Ryan 2003 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Copyright 2003 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 2003, Vol. 84, No. 4, 822–8480022-3514/03/$12.00
  • Brown, K. W., West, A. M., Loverich, T. M., & Biegel, G. M. (2011). Assessing adolescent mindfulness: Validation of an Adapted Mindful Attention Awareness Scale in adolescent normative and psychiatric populations. Psychological Assessment, 23(4), 1023–1033.

Comments

What our readers think

  1. geemar rido

    hi, may I know the norming of MAAS?

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Geemar,

      Are you looking for population norms for this scale or scoring information? If the former, these are reported in the original validation paper by Brown and Ryan (2003), which tests the scale with a general sample of adults. If the latter, the creators have not published cut-offs for high, medium, and low scores for this scale as far as I’m aware, so I can’t really say.

      I hope this helps a little!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
  2. Charlemagne Panilo

    Good day!

    May I ask if what specific score is considered as higher score and lower score? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Charlemagne,

      It can be tricky to get this information about scoring interpretation sometimes. It tends to be more common for scales that are applied in clinical settings (e.g., the Beck Depression Inventory), but these cut-offs (e.g., for high, medium, and low levels of a variable) do not always exist outside of clinical settings. I’d say your best bet would be to reach out to the first author of the scale and see if they have any information on this.

      Hope this helps a little!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
  3. PRISCILIANO ESPINOZA MOLINA

    Muchas gracias saludos y un fuerte abrazo

    Reply
  4. Enrique Parungao

    Hello. I’m a second year college student in the Philippines. Our group currently studying an experimental research and we’re using MAAS as our instrument. There were a lot of past studies using MAAS but they didn’t included how they selected their participants. My prof asked us how we will choose our participants using pretest (MAAS). He said it should be based on the score from the pretest.

    My question is what “score” we should look for to include an individual who took the pretest to be our participant?

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Enrique,

      A pre-test would mean you find a population you administer the MAAS to, and then you’d only admit the participant to the full study if they met some threshold on this measure. What that threshold is should depend on your research questions. E.g., if you’re interested in how a mindfulness intervention could improve experienced mindfulness within people whose baseline mindfulness is low, then you’d only admit the low-scoring participants to the study.

      So what your professor meant (and what this threshold should be) really depends on your research question!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
      • chat

        Hi Nicole,

        I am a mom, yet have a little community here in Hong Kong, where – we practice mindfulness – (8 min of breath works ) before we start our day, I am interested in How do I get the MAAS questionnaire? am I able to download it online? is there any other measurement of success to see if we are improving … is this questionnaire can be use as pre and post? thank you for your help.

        Reply
        • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

          Hi Chat,

          That sounds like a fantastic community you’re a part of 🙂 You can access the MAAS here. It has been used in research as a pre- and post- assessment before, so if you wanted, you could administer it to someone just starting in your community, wait a few weeks/months, and then administer it again to see if there’s been a change. You’ll find many more assessments in our dedicated blog post here, all of which can be used as pre- and post- assessments. If you follow the links in the text, they’ll take you to copies of the surveys.

          Let me know if I can be of more help.

          – Nicole | Community Manager

          Reply
        • Chat

          Dear Nicole,
          Thank you so much for your generosity, appreciate you replying back to me, I was finally able to locate your reply! Had a hard time finding it.

          I have used the grid, for pre and post and I am happy to share that these women thrived! I am grateful that we can learn and grow together,
          Thank you again

          Reply
  5. Beatriz Gonzalez Prego

    Hallo, i used the MAAS in a small sample size study with a brief Mindfulness intervention and the results were: less score after treatment. My idea referring to this is that the intervention was so brief, that the only achieved goal is that the participants started to becoming aware of not being Mindful..is there any study that explains this effect? I hope this makes sense to you.

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Beatriz,

      That’s an interesting result, and it may point to a common finding among meditation/mindfulness practitioners which is that mindfulness interventions can sometimes have the initial effect of almost increasing the noisiness inside a person’s mind. In reality, this noisiness has likely always been there; it’s just that now the client has slowed down and paid attention enough to notice it. This may translate into lower scores on your scale, but if the client kept going with the intervention, this could then begin to improve.

      I’m not aware of any research pointing to this effect, I’m afraid (although it might be out there!) This is more my sense from reading books by meditation teachers, so you may need to dig into this sort of material to find a source to cite.

      I hope this helps a little.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
  6. amna

    How to download this scale

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Amna,

      The scale is freely available to download here.

      Hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
  7. Frank

    Thank you for sharing the article, the questions and comments were all great. I have followed the page for sometime now, used it to develop an experiment of a mindfulness based cognitive therapy in a population of pregnant women, there were significant increase in levels of awareness and a reduced emotional states…. like depression symptoms after a period of practice in pregnant women.
    right now, am on my way to publishing this.
    Out there, people are excited about this article and most of its related applications.

    Thank you Kelly, thank you all.

    Reply
    • Frank

      just to let you know, I have much hopes for my pg research with the outcomes am getting from this already.

      Reply
  8. Asmat Yasmeen

    hi i want to use this scale for my research kindly send my permission so that i can use it ,also i want urdu version of this scale as my population needs urdu version of this scale thank you.

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Asmat,

      You’ll need to contact the scale’s creators, Brown and Ryan, to obtain permission to use it. However, the scale is in the public domain and freely available to use, so you shouldn’t need permission to use it unless this is a requirement of your course.

      You’ll find an Urdu translation here, too.

      Hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
  9. KHAN

    Hey there. is there any item in MASS that is on the reverse coded method? can you please help me with this confusion?

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Khan,

      No, none of the items in the MAAS are reverse scored. So all you need to do is sum the respondent’s scores — a higher score means that person displays higher dispositional mindfulness.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply
  10. Allison Lim

    Is there a need for correlation and anova for this scale? I hope not because I just used arithmetic mean to get the scoring, I’m currently working on my research regarding mindfulness and students.

    Reply
    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Allison,

      It’s usually a good idea to report a correlation matrix documenting all the correlations among the variables in your study. As for running ANOVAs, this depends on your specific research questions (e.g., whether you’re looking to understand differences in mindful attention between different groups of people).

      Hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      Reply

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