Explaining Mind Wandering Reports
Mind wandering refers to a reallocation of attentional resources away from what has been explicitly identified as the primary task towards some other point of focus. Experimental work investigating mind wandering relies extensively on self-report as the primary means of measuring mental state (e.g. to what extent one is focussed on a given task). However, little is known about how mind wandering reports are formed. The assumption is that participants can simply report whether or not they are
... or not they are experiencing mind wandering when probed, though various lines of evidence suggest this may be an oversimplification. This dissertation advances a basic theoretical framework to explain how mind wandering reports are formed. The results of Experiment 1 supported the hypothesis that mind wandering reports are shaped by perception of performance. Experiment 2 demonstrated a biasing effect on reports of the framing of the concept of mind wandering in the initial experimental instructions. Experiment 3 revealed various individual differences in what information participants reported considering while forming reports, as well as some implied differences in cognitive control. Taken together, these results support a model in which participants consider various sources of information to guide the construction of mind wandering reports. Implications for the use of reports as a means to measure mind wandering are discussed. Additional implication for various theoretical constructs relevant to mind wandering are also discussed. These include working memory, meta-awareness, and mindfulness. A research program of sorts is also outlined to enhance the basic framework presented here, with productive future directions, including several novel hypotheses and relevant predictions.