By the same authors

From the same journal

Absorbed in thought: the effect of mind wandering on the processing of relevant and irrelevant events

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



Publication details

JournalPsychological Science
DatePublished - May 2011
Issue number5
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)596-601
Original languageEnglish


This study used event-related potentials to explore whether mind wandering (task-unrelated thought, or TUT) emerges through general problems in distraction, deficits of task-relevant processing (the executive-function view), or a general reduction in attention to external events regardless of their relevance (the decoupling hypothesis). Twenty-five participants performed a visual oddball task, in which they were required to differentiate between a rare target stimulus (to measure task-relevant processes), a rare novel stimulus (to measure distractor processing), and a frequent nontarget stimulus. TUT was measured immediately following task performance using a validated retrospective measure. High levels of TUT were associated with a reduction in cortical processing of task-relevant events and distractor stimuli. These data contradict the suggestion that mind wandering is associated with distraction problems or specific deficits in task-relevant processes. Instead, the data are consistent with the decoupling hypothesis: that TUT dampens the processing of sensory information irrespective of that information's task relevance.

    Research areas

  • Photic Stimulation, Thinking, Evoked Potentials, Mental Processes, Humans, Adult, Task Performance and Analysis, Attention, Male, Female

Discover related content

Find related publications, people, projects, datasets and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations