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

Barron, Evelyn, Riby, Leigh, Greer, Joanna and Smallwood, Jonathan (2011) Absorbed in Thought: The Effect of Mind Wandering on the Processing of Relevant and Irrelevant Events. Psychological Science, 22 (5). pp. 596-601. ISSN 0956-7976

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797611404083

Abstract

This study used event-related potentials to explore whether mind wandering (task-unrelated thought, or TUT) emerges through general problems in distraction, deficits of task-relevant processing (the executive-function view), or a general reduction in attention to external events regardless of their relevance (the decoupling hypothesis). Twenty-five participants performed a visual oddball task, in which they were required to differentiate between a rare target stimulus (to measure task-relevant processes), a rare novel stimulus (to measure distractor processing), and a frequent nontarget stimulus. TUT was measured immediately following task performance using a validated retrospective measure. High levels of TUT were associated with a reduction in cortical processing of task-relevant events and distractor stimuli. These data contradict the suggestion that mind wandering is associated with distraction problems or specific deficits in task-relevant processes. Instead, the data are consistent with the decoupling hypothesis: that TUT dampens the processing of sensory information irrespective of that information’s task relevance.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: cognitive, event-related potential, attention, memory, mind wandering, P3a, P3b, P300, task-unrelated thought
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Ellen Cole
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2012 16:45
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2017 11:34
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/4976

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