The Awakening of the Attention: Evidence for a Link Between the Monitoring of Mind Wandering and Prospective Goals

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Abstract

Across 2 independent samples, we examined the relation between individual differences in rates of self-caught mind wandering and individual differences in temporal monitoring of an unrelated response goal. Rates of self-caught mind wandering were assessed during a commonly used sustained-attention task, and temporal goal monitoring was indexed during a well-established prospective-memory task. The results from both samples showed a positive relation between rates of self-caught mind wandering during the sustained-attention task and rates of checking a clock to monitor the amount of time remaining before a response was required in the prospective-memory task. This relation held even when controlling for overall propensity to mind-wander (indexed by intermittent thought probes) and levels of motivation (indexed by subjective reports). These results suggest the possibility that there is a common monitoring system that monitors the contents of consciousness and the progress of ongoing goals and tasks.

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