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Mind-Wandering

  • By: Jonathan Smallwood & Jonathan W. Schooler
  • In: Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
  • Edited by: Roy F. Baumeister & Kathleen D. Vohs
  • Subject:Social Psychology (general)

People's experience of their own thoughts is that thoughts rarely stay still; sometimes people's thinking is constrained by the task they are performing; at other moments, people's minds wander easily from topic to topic. The essential property of mind-wandering is that people's attention to the task fluctuates over time; instead of paying attention to the activity in which they are engaged, they often focus privately on their thoughts and feelings. In this entry, what is known about the situations in which mind-wandering is experienced will be described, along with some of the consequences of these experiences when they occur. Finally, what the future may hold for the study of this remarkable yet ill-understood aspect of people's mental lives will be considered. First, the historical ...

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