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The wandering self: Tracking distracting self-generated thought in a cognitively demanding context

Huijser, S., van Vugt, M. K. & Taatgen, N. A., Feb-2018, In : Consciousness and Cognition. 58, p. 170-185

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  • The wandering self: Tracking distracting self-generated thought in a cognitively demanding context

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DOI

We investigated how self-referential processing (SRP) affected self-generated thought in a complex working memory task (CWM) to test the predictions of a computational cognitive model. This model described self-generated thought as resulting from competition between task- and distracting processes, and predicted that self-generated thought interferes with rehearsal, reducing memory performance. SRP was hypothesized to influence this goal competition process by encouraging distracting self-generated thinking. We used a spatial CWM task to examine if SRP instigated such thoughts, and employed eye-tracking to examine rehearsal interference in eye-movement and self-generated thinking in pupil size. The results showed that SRP was associated with lower performance and higher rates of self-generated thought. Self-generated thought was associated with less rehearsal and we observed a smaller pupil size for mind wandering. We conclude that SRP can instigate self-generated thought and that goal competition provides a likely explanation for how self-generated thoughts arises in a demanding task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-185
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Volume58
Early online date22-Dec-2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2018

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  • Journal Article

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