Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, 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

  • Jennifer C. McVay
  • Michael J. Kane
  • Thomas R. Kwapil
Brief Reports

Abstract

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

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer C. McVay
    • 1
  • Michael J. Kane
    • 1
  • Thomas R. Kwapil
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of North CarolinaGreensboro

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