Making epistemic goods compatible: knowledge‐making practices in a lifestyle intervention RCT on mindfulness and compassion meditation

Mareike Smolka*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Mindfulness and compassion meditation is a popular lifestyle intervention in randomised controlled clinical trials (RCTs), which examine its efficacy to ameliorate health and well-being. Studying meditation in an RCT poses the challenge of standardising an intervention that relies on a mix of people, skills and activities. This article describes how, in meeting this challenge, researchers engage in diverging knowledge-making practices. It draws on praxiographic inquiry in an RCT on the effects of meditation compared to a foreign language training on healthy ageing. To analyse normative dimensions of knowledge-making practices, the concept of ‘epistemic goods’ is introduced. Researchers juggled partly incoherent epistemic goods—internal validity, social relevance, assessing efficacy, attending to qualitative effects, objectivity, trained judgment—and resolved tensions between them. Strate- gies to respond to unexpected events in the research process were: reinterpreting the study protocol, caring informally while playing by formal rules and adjusting the procedure of a study task. Analysing epistemic goods and strategies that make them coexist is relevant to problematise what counts as evidence in evidence-based medicine. Instead of evaluating knowledge by reference to a ‘gold standard’, evidence claims should be placed in the context of their production to evaluate them on their own terms.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalBiosocieties
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • BEHAVIOR-CHANGE
  • BRAIN DYNAMICS
  • CARE
  • CLINICAL-TRIALS
  • EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE
  • EXPERIMENTATION
  • Empirical ethics
  • Evidence
  • Health promotion
  • Knowledge-making practices
  • MANAGEMENT
  • POSITIVE AFFECT
  • RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED-TRIALS
  • Randomised controlled clinical trial
  • STANDARDIZATION
  • Sociology of standardisation

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