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Conscious Cogn. 2013 Dec;22(4):1412-21. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2013.09.012. Epub 2013 Oct 19.

Mind-wandering and negative mood: does one thing really lead to another?

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Department of Psychology, The University of Sheffield, UK. Electronic address:


Mind-wandering is closely connected with negative mood. Whether negative mood is a cause or consequence of mind-wandering remains an important, unresolved, issue. We sought to clarify the direction of this relationship by measuring mood before and after mind-wandering. We also measured the affective content, time-orientation and relevance of mind-wandering to current concerns to explore whether the link between mind-wandering and negative mood might be explained by these characteristics. A novel experience-sampling technique with smartphone application prompted participants to answer questions about mind-wandering and mood across 7 days. While sadness tended to precede mind-wandering, mind-wandering itself was not associated with later mood and only predicted feeling worse if its content was negative. We also found prior sadness predicted retrospective mind-wandering, and prior negative mood predicted mind-wandering to current concerns. Our findings provide new insight into how mood and mind-wandering relate but suggest mind-wandering is not inherently detrimental to well-being.


Current concerns; Experience sampling; Mental time travel; Mind-wandering; Negative mood

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