Questions about mind-wandering?

Feel free to post questions you have about mind-wandering, whether in relation to your personal experience or scientific research questions.

115 Responses to Questions about mind-wandering?

  1. Reza says:

    Hi
    I have lost my daydreaming after taking anti-psychotic drug (olanzapine) only for two months and my daydreaming has not returned for 4 years.living without daydreaming is too boring and it is very annoying.it is like living in hell.I have stopped the drugs for years but it didnt help me.Is there any way to increase and strengthen daydreaming?
    thanks

    • Hi Reza,

      Our studies indicate that daydreaming is easily disrupted by events in the outside world. Perhaps you will find it easier to daydream if you make sure that the possibility for disruption is reduced as far as possible.

      Jonny

  2. Morpheus Blaze says:

    I would say daydreaming fills the majority of my time especially when alone. In what ways is daydreaming most useful? Here’s my similar yet different odd question for today. What kind of careers and businesses benefit the most from daydreamers.

    • Hi Morpheus

      Our studies show that daydreaming does fill almost all of the idle moments that people have. Although it is hard to pin down the main advantages that daydreaming brings, we now know that most often people are thinking about the future (the goals that they have yet to complete and the hopes and dreams of the future). We think that a main feature of daydreaming, therefore, is it affords the opportunity to engage in what we call autobiographical planning, so any profession that such a skill was useful would be good for a daydreamer!

      Hope that helps

      Jonny

  3. Alex says:

    Hi,
    I am doing a project on doodling, in what way do you think mind wandering relates to doodling?

    • Hi Alex.

      There is a great paper called: What does doodling do? by Jackie Andrade in Applied Psychology – you should check it out if you haven’t already done so. Doodling may be a lot like mind-wandering; both are probably a form of entertainment when we are otherwise unoccupied. Although instead of being internally focused (as daydreaming often is) doodling is externally focused. This may in principle help to keep attention focused on the outside environment so that we don’t miss things (like when we are in a relatively boring but important meeting). Daydreaming or mind-wandering does the opposite – they make people worse at attending to the outside world and can lead to absent minded forgetting

      I hope this helps.

      Jonny

  4. Robert Brand says:

    I’m sure that a “wondering mind” is the disability I have. Even sleep at night, I never get a restful night sleep! I live on the verge of exhaustion. I have asked Doctors for 50 years for help and all I get are anti Depression drugs that never help and the side effects make me worse. If I can get a good night sleep, I can control my wondering thoughts, but it is impossible to get a restful sleep. Tried sleep Labs and Allergy treatments to clear sinus, nothing helps. Can you offer any help, please!!

    • A wonder says:

      Professor Smallwood is a expert in wandering mind, but maybe not an expert therapist on wondering mind. Hence, please try to find a related therapist.

      Hope this can give you some help.

  5. Angy says:

    I always thought I was distracted when people would come to me and say “hey, these days you don’t say hello!” I always tell them that I have things to do and I am very focus on this things. Is it mind-wandering?

    • A wonder says:

      As far as I concerned, wandering mind means that you are not focusing on the present task. Since you are focusing on your present tasks and forgetting to say “Hello”to somebody, which you always did before you are very busy , this seems the problems on you changed your habit. Thus, you are not mind-wandering.Of course, you deed have made others confused, you’d better explain the reason to them. Thus they would not feel confused again.

      Best wishes.

    • Riya says:

      Hi Angy,
      If you can’t greet people, its not because of mind-wandering; which concerns with disengagement of thought while doing some task, but may be related to absent mindedness.

  6. Sami says:

    Hi There 🙂

    I am currently researching zoning out and mind wandering in relation to caffeine cravings and nicotine cravings. Would you say that caffeine cravings would cause more instances of mind wandering?

    Thanks
    Sami x

    • Hi Sami

      Perhaps the easiest way to think about this is that mind wandering often entails thoughts that do not have an external perceptual referent at the moment the thought occurs. The precise term for this is stimulus independent thought. So in the case of smoking, cravings that result from watching someone else smoke would not be stimulus independent but if the same thought was generated internally it would be. Hope this helps,

      Jonny

  7. Kasia says:

    Hello,
    I’m a psychology student and I’m writing an article about the connection between mind wandering and EPQ-R personality dimensions. And I have w great problem, becuse it is very difficult to find any information about in on line (I’m trying for two weeks…). Could you help me? Do you know about any existing researches connected with my topic?
    Thank you for any help.
    Kasia.
    Ps. Sorry for my poor english, I’m from Poland.

    • Hi Kasia

      I am not aware of any studies that have been done on mind-wandering and the EPQ dimensions. The closest thing I am aware of is the work that has looked at states as depression and its relationship to mind wandering. I think it would be a really worthwhile question to look at the relationship between mind wandering and personality. Good luck

      Jonny

  8. Chen says:

    Hi,
    I’m a psychology student and I’m doing a seminar about daydreaming and creativity… Do you know where can I find a complete daydreaming tendency/frequency questionnaire?

    • Hi Chen

      There is an instrument called the Imaginal Processes Inventory which can be found online. This has various questionnaires that measure daydreaming propensity etc… and would be useful for your seminar. I have used it in a couple of behavioral studies as has Malia Mason in an fMRI study.

      Best

      Jonny

  9. Alessandro says:

    hi, may I ask you if you think if there are any differences between daydreaming and mind-wandering? are they synonymous or they have two different meanings?
    many many thanks!

    • Hi Alessandro,

      The relation between mind wandering and daydreaming is very complex and is at the heart of one of the most interesting debates in this research area. One the one hand, both seem to involve similar neural process, on the other our experience suggests that we daydream when we have free time, while we mind wander at moments when we are engaged in another task. At present there is no clear answer, but I think that we will have a better idea in the future.

      Jonny

      • Dear Jonny,
        thank you for answering! I’m doing some research on the topic and your answer is enlightening,

        Alessandro

      • Hi Allessandro,

        Glad to be of help. You might want to read the paper: Why the global availability of mind wandering necessitates resource competition” which can be downloaded from this website. In this article, I discuss whether the context in which mind wandering/daydreaming occurs is important in understanding how to understand the similarities and differences in the two concepts.

        Jonny

  10. Jane says:

    Dear Professor Jonny,
    Where is available for the Dundee Stress State Quesionnaire (DSSQ) with 16-item which you also used in your study? Could please send it to me?

    Many thanks.
    Jane

  11. Amogh says:

    Hi, I want to know if Mind Wandering is possible while a person is reading a coffee table book since he is bored waiting for a long time in the hospital queue. I also want to know if the graphical contents of the coffee table book that he is reading could become his environment or surroundings while Mind Wandering.

    • Hi Amogh

      If I understand your question correctly, yes it is possible to mind wander while reading a book while waiting in a queue. As to whether they can mind-wander about the graphical content, I think this is related to the questions as to whether people think in words or images. No one has done the experiment yet to answer this question yet, although I think the answer would be important.

      Hope this helps,

      Jonny

  12. Meagan says:

    Hi,
    I am a graduate student and am working on a project where we would like to investigate mind wandering in middle school students–do you know of an appropriate measure for this? Thanks for your help!
    Meagan

    • Hi Meagan,

      I am in the process of trying to track down the authors to see if I can upload it on to my web site. Stay tuned.

      Best

      Jonny

      • Eric Janssen (father) says:

        Hello Mr. Smallwood, I am a middle school student in 8th grade in California. Have you posted the study which you are referring to above? I am working on my final project which is necessary for graduating. My project topic is day-dreaming. I am required to interview one or more experts on my topic. Would you be available for a short interview? I will have questions prepared and my father will help me too. Thank you, I found your website to be helpful. Sincerely, Felix.

  13. gonzo says:

    Hi,

    I was wondering, if there is a connection between mind wandering and creativity. Sometimes, when I have to solve a problem, the solution comes into my mind while I am not aware of the outer world. What would you say could be the connection between mind wandering and creative ideas? What could mediate ist?

    thanks,

    Gonzo

    • Hi Gonzo

      Yes. We find a link between mind-wandering and creativity. We published a paper on this topic in a journal called Psychological Science (Inspired by distraction). check it out and see if that answers your question.

      Jonny

  14. Nick says:

    Hi Jonny,
    it seems quite clear to me that while “mind-wandering” can sometimes be viewed as a lapse of attention, it may be more usefully imagined as simply an attentional shift from external sensory inputs to internal signals. The many important mental activities such as remembering or planning that could be defined as SITs or TUTs or both indicate to me that a wandering mind may instead be conceived as a by-product of an essential system.
    I was wondering if you are aware of any research examining attentional systems and their interaction with internally directed thought? Perhaps some overlap between systems directing the reorientation of attention to relevant external stimuli and analogous systems related to relevant internal processes?
    Specifically I have in mind the ventral network discussed in Corbetta et al 2008.
    Excited to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Hi Nick

      I completely agree that mind wandering can sometimes be viewed is a shift in attention to an internal train of thought, and there are a number of sources of evidence from our studies for this idea. In our 2009 PNAS paper we demonstrated that the neural recruitment that occurs during mind wandering can engage systems that are traditionally viewed as important in maintaining and controlling attention (or at least working memory) such as the dLPFC and the inferior frontal gyrus. The latter observation was replicated by a study in PLOS One this year from Arnaud D’Argeambeau’s group in Liege. In a forthcoming paper in Consciousness and cognition we have followed up this observation with a demonstration that individuals with better attentional control do more future related mind wandering in a simple external task (Baird et al., 2011 Consciousness and Cognition). Along these lines I would recommend that you look at the work of Nathan Spreng and Kathy Gerlach (both in Dan Schacters Group at Harvard) who are doing some great work on future planning which is a big part of the mind wandering state.

      More recently, we showed in a paper in Psych Science this year (Barron et al., 2011) that those people who mind wander in a three stimulus odd ball task have less amplitude in the ERP responses to the distracter stimulus (as you are probably aware a reduction in distracter processing is a hall mark of attentional control. Along the same lines we have demonstrated that in general situations that do not require external attention and allow internal focus generally do not show the same degree of physiological coupling to the external stimulus (Smallwood et al., 2011, PLOS ONE). These are all evidence for what we call the decoupling hypothesis which essentially suggests that attention has the property that it can be decoupled from perception and can instead focus on internally generated information (see my Review in Brain Research this year for a possible neural architecture for this idea).

      Hope this helps

      Jonny

    • Hi Gonzo,

      There is no published evidence that mind-wandering and creativity are linked, although we are currently looking into this in a series of experiments. As you might expect there is a lot of introspective and anecdotal evidence along these lines. stay tuned to this website and when we get a firm answer on the topic I will post about it.

      Best

      Jonny

  15. Nick says:

    Thanks for the in depth response! Much appreciated Jonny.
    ~N

  16. DSmith says:

    My question is in regards to what I’ve coined “fake-fighting”…these are daydreams characterized by re-imagining “winning” any form of real conflict (ranging from arguments or physical altercations that have occurred in which the imaginer either “lost” or conflict came to a stalemate), or imagined conflict (escalating an ongoing argument or altercation to the point of producing an imagined “win”). I wonder if this is a form of coping with being too passive/aggressive?

    I’ve found that I experience these types of daydreams constantly and have introduced a process of immediately ceasing the daydream as well as internally recognizing a “Fake-fight” is occurring.

    I’m interested to know whether you’ve come across in your research any sort of value (or more likely) impediments that mind wandering of this type may provide/create?

    Thank you-

    • Hi

      One of the things we have discovered in the last year or so is that mind wandering when it is associated with events that have already happened is quite common and is partly related to having had some kind of unhappy event in the recent past. I cover this in a post on this website called “Imprisoned by the Past” and along with a co-author Rory O’COnnor published a paper on this aspect of mind wandering this year in a journal called Cognition and Emotion. I think that the phenomenon is likely to be quite common and probably quite adaptive: possibly the most important function that mind wandering serves in general is to help people make sense of what has happened so that in the future they can deal with it in a more productive manner.

      Hope that this makes sense.

      Jonny

  17. noahbence says:

    Hi Jonny,
    I’m a meditation practitioner and have found your papers quite enlightening! I myself have quite the perambulatory mind when I meditate, and I thought it would be interesting and useful to catalogue what exactly I spend all that time thinking about using both self-caught and probe-caught techniques (the latter with a random bell). I was wondering if a) there have been any studies on the detailed contents of the wandering mind, and b) if there is a formalized set of categories of thought that I could use to organize my own wanderings.
    Thanks!

    • Hi

      We do know that a lot of the content of mind wandering is related to the future, especially when people have not much to do. This prospective bias has been shown in a range of different countries including the UK, Japan and china, the US, Germany and Belgium.

      Our work is exploring the categories of thought but so far we have no firm conclusions. I am going to blog about this soon so stay tuned.

      Jonny

  18. neuroperson says:

    Hi there,

    I am a graduate student particularly interested in the way mind wandering can persist despite the presence of highly salient and behaviourally relevant external stimuli. Perhaps a typical example of this is the mind wandering that people often report while driving a car. This can involve traveling at a dangerous speed and making quick life-preserving decisions, but simultaneously being completely “decoupled” from the world. To my knowledge, much of the research on mind wandering involves relatively tedious tasks/stimuli that are nowhere near as complex as driving a car (forgive my ignorance if this is incorrect). Are there any good examples from laboratory experiments that illustrate how mind wandering persists in the face of salient external events that have a substantial survival/threat value?

    Kind regards, and thanks for your very thought provoking work.

    • If you think about it, driving isn’t actually that computationally demanding. Speed up, slow down and stay inside the lines. In some ways it’s right up there with walking…
      Your comment gets me wondering about the link (if any) between sensory decoupling and practiced motor plans etc. Chunked actions so to speak.
      From the small amount I’ve read about mind-wandering the experiments studying it tend to use tedious tasks as you said. I wonder whether complex but highly practiced activities would be equally susceptible to mind wandering.

  19. rose says:

    Hi,
    I need a special questionnaire for realizing daydreaming,my scientific MA project is about the effect of daydreaming on reading comprehension,but I don’t know which questionnaire is better?

  20. rose says:

    Hi,
    Please guide me what is the best questionnaire for realizing daydream in one person, I need it for my project.
    Thanks,

  21. pinko2 says:

    Hi I am writing an essay and i am trying to find articles that can give me some ideas on the compatiblity of borderline and mind wandering. Does anyone have an idea?
    thanks

    • Hi

      There is not much known about the relationship between psychopathology and mind wandering, except for anecdotes. We are looking into this in a number of studies but we have no clear answer yet.

      Jonny

  22. Sergei says:

    Does anyone know any self-help book for people with mind-wandering or daydreaming who zone out a lot, so it hinders their productivity very much?

  23. natasha nelson says:

    i have had trouble focusing and my mind wanderers everyday. I just wanted to know if there is anything i can take for it? like drugs wise? to make it stop and i’m also 21 year old female. Thanks, Natasha

    • jeff spicoli says:

      try to shedule an apointment at an psichyatrist. it cuold be anxyety, adhd, sct,.. find a good one. it helped me : ))

    • Hi Natasha

      I am not a clinican, however, I do know that pretty much everyone does some amount of mind wandering. If you feel your experiences are causing a problem I would advise you to contact a professional as they would be in a much better position to answer you than I would.

      Jonny

  24. jay woodson says:

    i dont if its mind wandering so something else but when im in class trying to focus i just cant its almost like i loose control and i end up just looking into the space ahead and when i try to look away i cant and im 100% aware of wats going on around me but i just cant stop looking at that one spot. sometimes i feel like im in this mode for a few minutes but it ends up being loner. Whats happening

  25. Dakota Parades says:

    Hi, I’m doing a few Haikus for a class on values. I was wondering what the value would be called for daydreaming? Any help would be awesome!

  26. Hello!
    Thanks a lot for your site, which I found quite inspirational. Are you aware of any philosophical studies on daydreaming? Something in the field of philosophy rather than experimental psychology in which you are involved. I am trying to set aside “constructive” daydreaming as a subject of study (a sort of semi-spontaneous creative mind wandering which result in stories, “movies” or scenarios with definite shape and contents as oppposed to isolated thoughts) and consider it as a separate activity somewhat akin to normal creativity or religious experience. The main difference between religious experience and daydreaming is that the latter are thought of as purely individual, while in religion the aspect of coming together and having same thoughts make the experience more “objective” rather than “subjective”. One surprizing aspect of daydreaming is that people almost never share the results with others, and there also exists very explicit aspect of non-reality (as opposed to religious experience which is viewed as the perception of another reality). Why non-reality are more attractive than reality? There is a lot of philosophical analysis of religious mental imagery and mysticism, but nothing, I think, about this (what I call “constructive daydreaming”).

    • Hi,

      you might want to check out a piece I co-authored with Jessica Andrews Hanna entitled “Not all minds that wander are lost” It gets into the value of self-generated thought and so provides some of the information that you have asked for.

      Best

      Jonny

    • Hi

      Regarding constructive daydreaming you may want to see a couple of my recent posts: Productive daydreaming and Not all minds that wander are lost. These go into what we know about the advantages of self-generated thought.

      I have no knowledge about philosophical studies per se, although I do think that the experimental work, as well as the pheneomenon itself, raises important philosophical questions. These involve how science which depends on manipulating a processes can understand events that arise through intrinsic changes within an individuals. The concept also raise awareness of the fact that often times covert processes take place within an individual that are at odds with an experimental paradigm. Finally, I think that this most important question is what self-generated thought means for the choices that a person makes in their daily life. I am not sure if these questions are what you were getting at so please let me know if I was of the point.

      • albertpike says:

        Many thanks for your advice; I found it only now (a few years after) and will look at this paper for sure. In the meantime I produced something on the subject, but I wrote it in French:
        https://www.academia.edu/8976531/La_philosophie_des_r%C3%AAves
        My “philosophical” is in defining a notion of a “daydream in a proper sense”, separated from realization and creativity as well as, sorry, from “mindwandering in a proper sense. Your feedback to andrew_simsky@hotmail.com will be appreciated (I am not looking often at wordpress)
        I partly like your term “self-generated thought” although it only has an overlap with mine “daydream in a proper sense”. IMHO, daydream is essentially sensual, while thought is rational and this is indeed smth different. To me two pivotal examples are daydreaming about sex and daydreaming of a prisoner about freedom. They both can be called “thoughts” in wider sense but this is not really what we call thoughts in a real sense. These are mental realizations of certail life experiences, sensual experiences; the aspect of desire is also important. Another critical remark: ‘self-generated thought’ is a tautology :-).
        Andrew

  27. Jason Tsukahara says:

    I wondering about how mind wandering is conceptually defined. From what I have seen, in a very simple form, is that mind wandering is spontaneous undirected thought that is unrelated to a current task. Where I am unclear is how certain forms of thought are classified as either mind wandering or goal-directed or even task-related.

    Day dreaming or fantasizing. While I can see that this may arise as spontaneous thought that is unrelated to a current task I can also see how this can actually be the “current task” if the individual is not engaged with any external task. In this case can we actually consider it as mind wandering and would we expect the same processes to be involved?

    Planning future decisions and actions. This type of thought clearly seems to be goal-directed which is uncharacteristic of mind wandering yet is decoupled from external information. I could actually see how the benefits of mind wandering may come into play here where they allow more creative options to be considered.

    Perhaps this confusion I am having results from the fact that research on mind wandering has been investigated while participants engage in an external task. It would be interesting to see research where mind wandering is investigated while participants are engaged in and deliberately directing an internal train of thought such as planning, decision making, fantasizing and even discursive meditation. Would mind wandering benefit these type of “tasks”?

    • Jason Tsukahara says:

      Oh I guess following from should “tuning out” necessarily be considered as mind wandering. By “tuning out” I mean the deliberate intent to disengage form some external task to “wander” in ones thoughts. Such as during a boring lecture. Certainly during this lecture non deliberate thoughts would intrude in your ability to attend to the lecture but once one consciously and effortfully decides to “tune out” can we still consider this as mind wandering?

      • Hi Jason
        The question of intent and mind wandering is complex and no one has a clear answer yet. Work towards this goal looks at the link between mind wandering and capacities that seem voluntary and those that indicate poor control. These experiments are discussed in a paper I co-authored with Jessica Andrews-Hanna (see my latest blog for details).
        Jonny

    • Hi Jason

      Yes, we do think that certain forms of self-generated thought can be deliberate, and contribute to the kinds of processes that you describe. For example, in a recent paper we found that people who engaged in a lot of task unrelated thought under circumstances that had relatively low task demands were also people who tended to make long term patient choices. This paper is called Letting Go Of the Present and was published in a journal called Consciousness and Cognition this year. We have also found that when we ask people to perform the same easy task this tends to increase their capacity for creative problem solving (Baird et al., 2012, Psychological Science). I have blogged about this on this website and also written a hypothesis piece (Not all minds that wander are lost) which was published in Frontiers a couple of weeks ago.

      Hope this helps

      Jonny

    • Hi Jason.

      Yes I think the definition of mind-wandering is an important point. In my research I have adopted the term self-generated thought to describe the experience. This is because their is an important aspect of the state which is the active generation of mental contents that primarily come from the organism, and not from sensory input. Viewed in this light there are likely to be many forms of cognition (you mention some) that are directly related to mind-wandering.

      Another problem is that mind-wandering is not something we measure; we usually ask people to tell us if they are paying attention to an external task (or not). As a consequence we are likely to be lumping many different types of thoughts into the same category; this is because one could obviously intentionally decouple attention from a task if you wanted, and you may also does so unintentionally. As both would manifest as task unrelated thoughts, we don’t really have a way to be clear on certain aspects (such as intentional or unintentional self-generated thought).

      If you want to read more on these, you should check out my paper in Psychological Bulletin this year, and one I published with one of my graduate students (Florence Ruby) in PLoS One a few weeks ago.

      Hope this helps

      Jonny

  28. Jackie says:

    Hello!
    I’m designing a study right now involving mind wandering, and I’m having some trouble deciding on tasks to use. I’m planning to use a reading task with thought probes, but I’d like to have a second task, as well. Do you think visual search would be sufficient? My thoughts are that if these two tasks are used, there will be verbal and spatial components of mind wandering.

    • Hi. I guess the question is why you want to include two tasks. IF the idea is to manipulate difficulty then a simple visual search would be fine. If you want to manipulate certain aspects of the experience by the nature of the task I would look into tasks which differ on a specific feature. If you haven’t done so you could check out the paradigm I use to study future and past related mind-wandering (e.g. Smallwood, et al., 2009, Consciousness and Cognition) which manipulates a specific element of task processing, namely working memory. If you want to get at spatial versus verbal components perhaps you could use a paradigm along these lines which varies elements of verbal or visual working memory>

      Hope this helps

  29. Sam says:

    Whenever I try to concentrate on a task I find my mind wandering. At times this is great, as I get a freeflow of creative thought, but at other times it stops me focusing on the task at hand (normally work). Is there an effective way to train my mind to stop wandering when I need it to?

  30. saijanai says:

    Are you familiar with the research on pure consciousness during the practice of Transcendental Meditation? That is, according to tradition, the ultimate state of mind-wandering, and the research seems to confirm this: highest levels of coherent alpha EEG across much of the brain, combined with high levels of activation (measured via EEG and MEG x-LORETA analysis) of various parts of the DMN. Paradoxically, the “experience” is a complete lack of mental or sense-related activity.

    • Hi.

      Yes I am aware of the research on consciousness and meditation etc…
      From my perspective the work is interesting, but I guess I don’t know what pure consciousness is. In my research I tend to focus on the specific mental content that we experience in daily life and that is quite a different emphasis than for the question of transcendental experience. I think they may ultimately be two different way of looking at the same question but at the present moment the two research streams are quite difficult to reconcile.

      Hope this helps

      Jonny

      • saijanai says:

        Hi, thanks for responding. A couple of things about TM that might clarify the relevance of research on pure consciousness to your own research:

        1) TM is simply supposed to be mind wandering with initial conditions set up so that the potential for rest –that is, the reduction of mental/sensory content in the mind– is maximized;

        2) Pure Consciousness during TM is supposed to be what the brain looks like when it has been allowed to wander into a state of least excitation –that is, there’s no mental or sensory content, but the brain is still in an alert, mind-wandering mode.

        So… assuming the above is a valid description, physiologically speaking, of PC, then PC is an obvious thing to examine if you are interested in the behavior of the default mode network because, in essence, PC is what the brain looks like when the DMN is doing its thing with absolutely no mental/sensory activity to interfere with its, well, default functioning.

        If you can understand the nature of PC, then you’ll fully understand the nature of the D part of DMN.

        Here’s three studies on PC during TM that you may not be aware of:

      • Thanks. I see where you are coming from; however the issue I have is to do with the concept of pure consciousness without mental content. This is quite a lot more meta physical than the work that I do which I try to tie directly to the systems that we know the brain and mind have for coding and understanding inputs (including memory). so TM it is actually something that I am aware of but does not really move my research question forward.

      • saijanai says:

        “Thanks. I see where you are coming from; however the issue I have is to do with the concept of pure consciousness without mental content. This is quite a lot more meta physical than the work that I do which I try to tie directly to the systems that we know the brain and mind have for coding and understanding inputs (including memory). so TM it is actually something that I am aware of but does not really move my research question forward.”

        For me, this is analogous to studying the behavior of a car engine under load without first understanding how it behaves while idling.

        How can you tell what part of the behavior is innate and what part is due to being under load if you don’t look at both types of behavior?

  31. Dr. Son Ahuja says:

    Hello
    I am studying the literature related to mind-wandering. Could make out its difficult to measure it. Can you please suggest some measurement techniques?

    • Hi Son
      There are two principle ways we measure mind-wandering one is via retrospective measures which we have used successfully (see Absorbed in Thought, 2011, Psychological Science) the second is via experience sampling (see for example Evidence of the decoupling of attention during Offline thought, 2011, PLoS One). Both and strengths and weaknesses regarding their measurement so which one you would use depends upon the question you want to ask.

  32. Dr. Son Ahuja says:

    Thank you

  33. Dr. Son Ahuja says:

    Hi, I have another question. In order to measure the subjective reports of participants post task, I administer some tool to measure mind wandering. I want to know, can I use this strategy for pre-test and post-test some intervention? If yes, should I assign different tasks in pre and post test? If I give them same task, it may affect their response in post task as participants have already done the same and if I give them task different than pre-test one, will it affect the reliability of results?

    • hi Sona

      There is no reason why you could not use a questionnaire twice post a particular intervention. Although you are right that there will be practice effects following repeating a task, this is unavoidable in a design in which you repeat a measure.

      hope this helps

      Jonny

  34. Dr. Sona Ahuja says:

    Hi
    silly thing. i typed son for my name Sona. May be mind wandering. Can you please suggest some questionnaire to measure mind wandering?

  35. souad66 says:

    Hello
    I am a graduate student and interested Btjol mind in Educational Psychology
    What is the most important new tracks in this area?
    Thank you

  36. souad66 says:

    mind wandering *

  37. souad66 says:

    Hello
    I am a graduate student
    modern trends in the field of the mind wandering?
    Thank you

    • Hi

      If you are interested in mind-wandering in education you could check out a paper I wrote called: “Default modes of reading” and published in Frontiers in Neuroscience last year. It might give you some idea about current views on mind-wandering and education. If you are interested in a more general persepective, you might want to check some recent reviews such as “Not all minds that wander are lost” (Frontiers in Psychology) and “Distinguishing how from why the mind wanders” (Psychological Bulletin)

      Jonny

  38. souad66 says:

    If you please
    I would like get the a paper I wrote called: “Default modes of reading”

  39. souad66 says:

    Belize I hope to get a research paper Absorbed in Thought2011
    My passion for wandering in the field mentaخ

  40. souad66 says:

    Absorbed in Thought: The Effect of Mind Wandering on the Processing of Relevant and Irrelevant Events

  41. Sarah says:

    Hi! This might sound like a strange question, but my mind tends to go off particularly when I am on the toilet taking a poo. I think of really different things not at all related to the fact that I am just taking a shit. I am usually a really task-focussed person. Why do you think this is? Is pooing unique that way? Just curious (turtle :-)). Thanks for any input.
    Yours, Sarah

  42. shubham says:

    hello sir I’m an engineering student i have lots of problem of mind wandering my mind starts wandering when I was at age of 13 it is very hard to control it also effects on my career too please sir give me an effective way to control it!

  43. Azzurra Commisso says:

    Hi, I’m an italian student. I study Psychology at University of Bologna. I will graduate this year and I’m boning up my thesis on mind wandering. I would like to know if there is, o could be, a relation between mind wandering and the thought’s styles. Could mind wandering be associated with personality? I’m sorry for my english. I hope to be understable.
    Best regards
    Azzurra Commisso

  44. Sarah N. says:

    Hi there,

    A fellow student and me are designing our first experiment in an upper-year cognitive psychology course. We found your recent review “The Science of Mind Wandering: Empirically Navigating the Stream of Consciousness” and were very intrigued. We have decided to investigate how mind wandering is related to creativity. Specifically, our independent variable is a reading task with two levels (easy/hard) and our dependent variable is creativity (for lengths’ sake, I will not go into our procedure). In your opinion, is there a way we can make this experiment even more novel? We are also wondering if you would recommended investigating any correlations. For example, investigating whether having less sleep is related to greater mind wandering incidences. I see that a great deal of research has investigated mood in relation to mind wandering. Are there any relatively novel relationships you would recommend investigating?

    Thank you so much for having this question option on your website! It is wonderful. Any information or tips you have for my partner and I would be sincerely appreciated.

    Kind regards,

    Sarah

    • Hello Sarah

      I think your study already sounds novel. I would be interested in knowing if creativity was more correlated with mind-wandering while reading the easy text or the hard text. Please keep me posted on your results.

      Best

      Jonny

  45. Jordan says:

    what is the difference between daydreaming and mind wandering?

  46. YouOweMePhD says:

    Dr Smallwood,

    I was wondering whether obesity could partially be explained by mind-wandering? You may be wondering where I got this original idea from. When an individual is bored, they may ‘automatically’ pick up food and devour all the contents as a result of boredom. After eating all of it, and they continue to eat. They gain weight, but they were not aware of the situation at hand. So, could it be that people who are more obese are more prone to mind-wandering that leads to them in the state that they are in?

  47. Riya says:

    Hi,
    i would like to know what’s the difference between mind wandering and minlessness and if there is any difference then how could you differentiate between them…?

  48. Jonas says:

    Hi and thank you for this website,

    I’m a PhD student who just started a few weeks ago to work on mind wandering and performance monitoring.
    I only had one question, after reading all papers presented on your website: nowadays, is it possible to detect mind wandering in real time with an acceptable error rate ?

    Best regards,
    Jonas

  49. Batool says:

    Hey!
    I have a project on wind wandering.
    So can you help me from where i can get suitable data.
    Even first i have to do a survey so suggest me some questions :/
    Thanks.

  50. Iori says:

    Hello

    I’m Japanese undergraduate student. I study psychology and i want to study about wandering-mind’s mechanism. I think its mechanism consists of (involves in) association of ideas, because paper says that some depressive patients engaged in wandering mind more longer when they saw keywords about themselves. so when participants see anything what makes the mental association of (s)he’s past experience, (s)he will also engage in mind wandering longer.
    (e.g. when I see advertisement of medicine(it associates with disease, medicine itself, entertainer on advertisement, and so on), I thought about it and it makes mind-wandering more longer.)

    what I want to ask you is measurement for mind wandering. I thought when using experience sampling, the results may include not purely mind-wandering but mind-wandering including meta-cognition and so on. Do you think merits and demerits on using subjective measurements?

    Sorry for my poor English. I hope to your answer, thank you.

    Iori

    • Hello Lori

      I agree that semantic associations are likely important for mind-wandering. We have some indirect evidence that supports this association (see the paper entitled Representing Representation published in PLOS One in 2016). In terms of the measures you gain from experience sampling we are finding quite stable patterns using the technique that we describe in the paper (we call it Multi-Dimensional Experience Sampling). In that paper you can get the english translation for the questions that you use. You are correct that the ability to answer experience sampling questions does depend on meta cognition, and this is an area of research that we are exploring just now. Perhaps we will have an answer in about 12 months time.

      I hope this helps,

      Jonny

  51. lisa says:

    Hi,
    Why does the mind wander? Are there qualitatively different kinds of mind wandering? I am about to write a short review of the cognitive neuroscience of mind wandering, what are the future directions of research?

    • Hello Lisa

      I do think that there are qualitative differences in mind-wandering, in fact this is an important area of research on this topic. We try to capture these differences using a technique called multi dimensional experience sampling (or MDES for short). In brief we ask people several different questions and reduce the complexity of these data using techniques like factor analysis. These find dimensions within the data seem to have reasonably unique correlates in terms of their relationship to autobiographical planning, and to the functional organisation of the brain at rest. You can read some of our work on this question in a paper by me published in PLOS One in 2016 and a paper written by Barbara Medea in Experimental Brain Research in the same year. We have several more in the pipeline so stay tuned!

      I hope this helps

      Jonny

      • Lisa Byford says:

        Thanks so much for your reply, having completed my review of mind wandering research, which cited quite a lot of your work, I am now investigating internal conversations/dialogue, this is leading me to consider the importance of situation and culture. I am also reading the work of Lisa Feldman Barrett on emotion, she argues that mental states always involve perception, cognition and emotion at the same time and looks at the role of concepts, I am wondering if her approach can throw any new light on mind wandering.

      • Hello Lisa,

        I think that inner speech is a big part of mind-wandering.

        Good luck,

        Jonny

    • Hello Lisa

      These are all great questions. I would direct you to the Annual Review I wrote in 2015 to get a sense of how I think about those. Feel free to come back to me with any questions you have after reading that.

      Jonny

  52. suzanne says:

    hi Jonny,
    I am doing my dissertation on mind-wandering and creativity do you know how i can get the Mind-Wandering Questionnaire (MWQ) thank you

  53. Christina says:

    Hi is there any neurological tool that I can use to measure mind wandering (other than brain scanners). For instance I noticed SART, sustained attention response test, was used many times to assist in measuring mind wandering. Can this tool measure mind wandering effectively and if not is there any neurological tool that does?

    • Hello Christina

      Currently we don’t really have very many indirect measures for mind-wandering. Some people have used errors on tasks, but this is problematic because some of these mistakes arise for other reasons than task unrelated thought. We discuss some of the issues related to indirect markers for internal experience in a paper by Konishi and Smallwood (2016).

      I hope this helps,

      Jonny

    • Hello Christina

      I am not sure if we yet have a gold standard indirect marker for mind-wandering. There are many tests that can compliment (i.e. correlate with) measures of experience. We discuss some of the issues linked to this in a paper by Konishi and Smallwood (2016).

      Jonny

  54. Jessica Nicosia says:

    Hello!

    I’m starting up an experiment looking at how regularly spaced breaks as compared to participant chosen or (pseudo)randomly placed breaks might influence the amount of mind-wandering during a task. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for literature to refer to?

    Thanks!
    Jessica

    • Hello Jessica

      That sounds like an interesting question. I don’t know if any study has addressed this directly, but it is common to include periods of rest in imaging experiments and these usually show more default mode activity than the tasks.

      Jonny

  55. Hi,

    I’m currently writing about daydreaming, focused on the “autobiographical planning” type you’ve described, and I’m interested in its relationship to exercise. I am sure I am not alone in that exercise, running in particular, is the most regular, idle time for the mind in my schedule, and where I’ve also compartmentalized all of my autobiographical planning. I am wondering if these two activities together might have benefits greater than the sum of their parts, as the positive feelings from exercise encourage me to dream bigger, and the usually unrelated but equally positive goal setting keeps me entertained and motivated. Can you comment on this relationship?

    Thank you,
    Maia

    • Hello Maia

      That is cool, and sounds like an interesting research program. I would be interested to know how you will run studies and what the dependent measures you will use are.

      I also go running and find the time use for planning the things that are going on in my life. I think that the sense of control that emerges when you run may influence the thoughts we have. I also wonder if they are especially productive because we can complete a line of thought without the ability to act upon them. In this way we can simulate the aspect of our life in a more comprehensive manner. It might be harder to do this if we can act on the thoughts since under these circumstances it might be tempting to act on the thoughts before we have completely though through their ramifications.

      I hope this makes sense!

      Jonny

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