Self-Report Measures, Screenings and Assessments
An Overview of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)
THC Editorial Team February 26, 2022
- What Is the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale?
- What Does the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale Measure?
- Development of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale
- Mindful Attention Awareness Scale Scoring Guidelines
- MAAS Reliability and Validity
Recently, the concept of practicing mindfulness has gained in popularity, becoming at least three times more commonplace in the United States over the last decade.1 Mindfulness is the state of being aware of one’s thoughts and actions in the present moment in a nonjudgmental manner. Research has linked this awareness to greater well-being, positive affect, self-regulation, and protection against depression and anxiety.2,3 This recognition of the importance of mindfulness has led to the development of scales and measures, including the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), to measure one’s use of this practice.
What Is the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale?
Developed by professor of social and health psychology Kirk Brown and professor of psychology Richard Ryan in 2003, the MAAS is a self-report tool that measures an individual’s ability to practice mindfulness in their day-to-day life. Brown and Ryan’s interest in mindfulness practice and its impact relates in part to a broader idea of the self-determination theory, which Ryan helped develop.4 This theory places control over decisions and behaviors in the individual and fosters self-awareness of one’s needs, beliefs, and motivations.5 The self-awareness that mindfulness provides can foster deep self-reflection of people’s experiences and behaviors and allow them to act with less impulsivity.6,7 The MAAS, which has been tested with various populations, contains 15 items that cover various aspects of mindfulness.4,8
Since the inception of this scale in the early 2000s, mindfulness research has accelerated and deepened the scope of knowledge and understanding of the human consciousness and the role mindfulness can play in people’s lives.7
What Does the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale Measure?
The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) assesses the frequency of individuals’ open, or receptive, awareness and attention to the present moment. Unlike other mindfulness scales, the MAAS does not measure attributes associated with mindfulness, like acceptance, trust, empathy, or gratitude, just the participant’s level of mindfulness in day-to-day life.4
The items assess how much an individual invests in the present moment by considering to what extent they are observing what takes place in their surroundings at any given moment. Some items assess how much the mind wanders, such as “I find myself doing things without paying attention,” “I find myself listening to someone with one ear, doing something else at the same time,” and “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.”4
Development of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale
The MAAS was developed to span cognitive, emotional, physical, interpersonal, and general domains of mindfulness. The researchers began with a list of 184 items, which they narrowed down to 55 by excluding items that mentioned intent, the “why” behind mindfulness, consequences (e.g., calmness or improved well-being), attitudes (e.g., trust or acceptance), or technical, specialized terminology. The researchers used pilot studies to reduce the list further, eliminating those that elicited non-normal, skewed results. They constructed the statements to reflect the more common state of mindlessness in the hopes of making it simpler and more accessible.4
The researchers expected scores on the MAAS to positively correlate with scores on scales measuring emotional intelligence and openness to experiences. To measure this, they used scales including the Trait Meta-Mood Scale, the NEO Personal Inventory, and the NEO Five-Factor Inventory Openness to Experience. They also compared the results of the MAAS with the only other mindfulness-mindlessness scale available at the time, Bodner and Langer’s 2001 scale.4
Mindful Attention Awareness Scale Scoring Guidelines
For each of the 15 items, participants rate their answers on a six-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (almost always) to 6 (almost never).1 The items on the scale consist of an individual’s day-to-day experiences, so those who complete this scale should answer the items according to what actually reflects their daily experiences rather than what they believe their experience should be.4
To calculate their score, users total their ratings for each item and then divide by 15, the total number of statements. This mean, or average value, reflects their level of dispositional, or trait, mindfulness. Higher scores indicate higher levels of dispositional mindfulness, meaning these individuals more frequently live in a state of mindfulness. Studies have shown that those who have higher scores also tend to report higher levels of autonomy, competence, positive affect, self-esteem, and self-actualization.4
Mindful Attention Awareness Scale Reliability and Validity
Developers of scales like the MAAS must assess the reliability and validity of these measures to ensure that the results of studies that use them are high quality. Reliability refers to how consistently reproducible the research results are; if something is reliable, it is statistically consistent. Validity refers to how well the results measure what they intend to measure; if findings are valid, they are statistically meaningful and accurate.9,10
Although this scale asks participants to reflect on subjective experiences, which could produce inaccuracies, studies have found the MAAS reliable and valid within many populations.11 It has been tested and validated in studies with undergraduates, adults, adolescents, and those with cancer, and has been translated into five languages.12,13,14