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Psychon Bull Rev. 2007 Apr;14(2):230-6.

Counting the cost of an absent mind: mind wandering as an underrecognized influence on educational performance.

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School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland.


Successful learning requires that individuals integrate information from the external environment with their own internal representations. In this article, we consider the role that mind wandering plays in education. Mind wandering represents a state of decoupled attention because, instead of processing information from the external environment, our attention is directed toward our own private thoughts and feelings. In principle, because mind wandering is a state of decoupled attention, it represents a fundamental breakdown in the individual's ability to attend (and therefore integrate) information from the external environment. We consider evidence that mind wandering impairs the encoding of information, leading to failures in building a propositional model of a sentence and, ultimately, impairing the building of a narrative model with sufficient detail to allow generating inferences. Next, because recognizing and correcting for mind wandering is a metacognitive skill, certain client groups, such as those suffering from dysphoria or attention deficit disorder, may be unable to correct for the deficits associated with mind wandering, and so may suffer greater negative consequences during education. Finally, we consider how to apply this research to educational settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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