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Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 527–533 | Cite as

The lights are on but no one’s home: Meta-awareness and the decoupling of attention when the mind wanders

  • Jonathan SmallwoodEmail author
  • Merrill McSpadden
  • Jonathan W. Schooler
Brief Reports

Abstract

In a recent review, we suggested that an important aspect of mind-wandering is whether participants are aware that they are off task (Smallwood & Schooler, 2006). We tested this hypothesis by examining the informationprocessing correlates of mind wandering with and without awareness in a task requiring participants to encode words and detect targets with either a high or a low probability. Target detection was measured via response inhibition. Mind wandering in the absence of awareness was associated with a failure to supervise task performance, as indicated by short RTs, and was predictive of failures in response inhibition. Under conditions of low target probability, mind wandering was associated with a relative absence of the influence of recollection at retrieval. The results are consistent with the notion that mind wandering involves a state of decoupled attention and emphasizes the importance of meta-awareness of off-task episodes in determining the consequences of these mental states.

Keywords

Response Time Response Inhibition Verbal Report Target Probability Short Response Time 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Smallwood
    • 2
    Email author
  • Merrill McSpadden
    • 1
  • Jonathan W. Schooler
    • 1
  1. 1.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenScotland

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