Methodological Differences in Measuring Mind Wandering Influences Willingness to Re-engage with Cognitive Tasks

Dean Cisler

Advisor: Patrick E McKnight, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: William Helton, Tyler Shaw

Online Location, Meeting ID: 865 7943 7289 Passcode: 950188
April 22, 2024, 02:00 PM to 04:00 PM


What if mind wandering really isn’t all that bad, just misunderstood?  There is a body of literature that often cites it as the issue in failing to perceive important events (McVay & Kane,2009).  On the other hand, there is a body of literature that cites mind wandering as a contributing factor for beneficial processes such as generating novel ideas or solutions to problems (Baird, Smallwood, & Schooler, 2011).  However, the methods by which data on mind wandering is measured influences the interpretations made by previous researchers regarding its benefits and detriments.  Furthermore, little work has been done to assess how mind wandering influences re-engagement with a task that is being performed for extended periods of time.  We focused on exploring how 1) probe placement influences task performance and willingness to re-engage with the task; 2) if performance differences exist between those who mind wander and those who do not for a complex cognitive task (such as a task-switching paradigm) compared to the sustained attention to response task (SART); and 3) if ratings on scales measuring effort, difficulty, frustration, and available mental resources differ between those who mind wander and those who do not.  Overall, results show that probe placement influences willingness to re-engage with the SART task.  Additionally, those who report having mind wandered during the cognitive tasks are more willing to re-engage, but report higher levels of frustration and lower levels of positivity towards the tasks.