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Mind-Wandering as a Natural Kind: A Family-Resemblances View

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  • Paul Seli
  • Michael J. Kane
  • Jonathan Smallwood
  • Daniel L. Schacter
  • David Maillet
  • Jonathan W. Schooler
  • Daniel Smilek


Publication details

JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
DateAccepted/In press - 21 Mar 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 15 May 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jun 2018
Issue number6
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)479-490
Early online date15/05/18
Original languageEnglish


As empirical research on mind-wandering accelerates, we draw attention to an emerging trend in how mind-wandering is conceptualized. Previously articulated definitions of mind-wandering differ from each other in important ways, yet they also maintain overlapping characteristics. This conceptual structure suggests that mind-wandering is best considered from a family-resemblances perspective, which entails treating it as a graded, heterogeneous construct and clearly measuring and describing the specific aspect(s) of mind-wandering that researchers are investigating. We believe that adopting this family-resemblances approach will increase conceptual and methodological connections among related phenomena in the mind-wandering family and encourage a more nuanced and precise understanding of the many varieties of mind-wandering.

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© 2018, Elsevier Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.

    Research areas

  • definition, family resemblances, heterogeneous, mind-wandering, varieties

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