Does Mind Wandering Reflect Executive Function or Executive Failure? Comment on Smallwood and Schooler (2006) and Watkins (2008)

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michael J. Kane, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: In this comment, we contrast different conceptions of mind wandering that were presented in 2 recent theoretical reviews: Smallwood and Schooler (2006) and Watkins (2008). We also introduce a new perspective on the role of executive control in mind wandering by integrating empirical evidence presented in Smallwood and Schooler with 2 theoretical frameworks: Watkins’s elaborated control theory and Klinger’s (1971, 2009) current concerns theory. In contrast to the Smallwood–Schooler claim that mind wandering recruits executive resources, we argue that mind wandering represents a failure of executive control and that it is dually determined by the presence of automatically generated thoughts in response to environmental and mental cues and the ability of the executive-control system to deal with this interference. We present empirical support for this view from experimental, neuroimaging, and individual-differences research.

Additional Information

McVay, J.C., & Kane, M.J. (2010). Does mind wandering reflect executive function or executive failure? Comment on Smallwood and Schooler (2006) and Watkins (2008). Psychological Bulletin, 136, 188-197.
Language: English
Date: 2010
Mind wandering, Executive function, Cognitive control, Default mode network, Current concerns

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