, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 857-863

Tracking the train of thought from the laboratory into everyday life: An experience-sampling study of mind wandering across controlled and ecological contexts


In an experience-sampling study that bridged laboratory, ecological, and individual-differences approaches to mind-wandering research, 72 subjects completed an executive-control task with periodic thought probes (reported by McVay & Kane, 2009) and then carried PDAs for a week that signaled them eight times daily to report immediately whether their thoughts were off task. Subjects who reported more mind wandering during the laboratory task endorsed more mind-wandering experiences during everyday life (and were more likely to report worries as off-task thought content). We also conceptually replicated laboratory findings that mind wandering predicts task performance: Subjects rated their daily-life performance to be impaired when they reported off-task thoughts, with greatest impairment when subjects’ mind wandering lacked metaconsciousness. The propensity to mind wander appears to be a stable cognitive characteristic and seems to predict performance difficulties in daily life, just as it does in the laboratory

Portions of this work were supported by a UNCG Regular Faculty Grant awarded to M.J.K. and an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship granted to J.C.M., Award F31MH081344 from the National Institute of Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIMH.