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Psychol Bull. 2010 Mar;136(2):188-97; discussion 198-207. doi: 10.1037/a0018298.

Does mind wandering reflect executive function or executive failure? Comment on Smallwood and Schooler (2006) and Watkins (2008).

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Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, nsboro, NC 27402-6170, USA.


In this comment, we contrast different conceptions of mind wandering that were presented in 2 recent theoretical reviews: Smallwood and Schooler (2006) and Watkins (2008). We also introduce a new perspective on the role of executive control in mind wandering by integrating empirical evidence presented in Smallwood and Schooler with 2 theoretical frameworks: Watkins's elaborated control theory and Klinger's (1971, 2009) current concerns theory. In contrast to the Smallwood-Schooler claim that mind wandering recruits executive resources, we argue that mind wandering represents a failure of executive control and that it is dually determined by the presence of automatically generated thoughts in response to environmental and mental cues and the ability of the executive-control system to deal with this interference. We present empirical support for this view from experimental, neuroimaging, and individual-differences research.

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