Researchers led by Brown epidemiologist Eric Loucks assessed 400 participants of different ages, ethnicities and walks of life, from a larger study called the New England Family Study. The team asked participants a series of questions about their level of or "dispositional mindfulness," which they defined as "ability to attend in a non-judgmental way to one's physical and mental processes during ordinary, everyday tasks."
To gauge levels of this inherent everyday awareness in study participants, the researchers gave them a commonly used 15-item questionnaire called the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale.
The MAAS asks test-takers questions, such as "I find it difficult to stay focused on what's happening in the present" and "I break or spill things because of carelessness, not paying attention or thinking of something else." Test-takers respond by picking a number from 1 (almost always) to 6 (almost never), and then their total score is tabulated.