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Psychon Bull Rev. 2007 Jun;14(3):527-33.

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

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


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 information-processing 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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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