Current Issues in Mind-Wandering Research 2023


We are thrilled to announce that Myrthe Faber, Kalina Christoff, and Jonathan Smallwood will give the keynote speeches at Current Issues in Mind-Wandering Research 2023. Please, find the titles and abstracts of their talks below.

Myrthe Faber, Tilburg University, Tilburg (Netherlands)
Tales of the Wandering Mind: The Impact of Mind Wandering on Reading Comprehension and Engagement

Mind wandering is at the heart of our rich inner lives, yet it is often regarded as a sign of disengagement and therefore generally perceived as an unwanted, negative phenomenon. I challenge this notion by investigating its occurrence during narrative story reading, and argue that certain types of mind wandering thoughts are intrinsically linked to how people experience stories. I will discuss how mind wandering positively and/or negatively predicts text comprehension and memory, and how it might contribute to and/or detract from absorption in and appreciation of the story. I will do so based on recent research that examines the link between eye movements and people’s thoughts and reading experience.

Kalina Christoff, University of British Columbia, Vancouver (Canada)
Spontaneous Thought and Its Contributions to Mental Health and Flexibility: A View From Within the Dynamic Framework of Thought

Jonathan Smallwood, Queen's University, Kingston (Canada)
States of Mind and Brain

A core goal of psychology and neuroscience is to understand the patterns of thought that occupy our daily lives and how these contribute to well-being and productivity. Contemporary views suggest that the landscape of ongoing thought is heterogeneous and can be influenced by features of both the person and the context in which they exist. This talk considers recent work that uses state-of-the-art experience sampling and advanced brain imaging methods to understand the different features of ongoing experience, their context dependence and how these are supported by different brain systems. These studies reveal distinct patterns of thought that emerge in a context dependent manner in both the lab and in daily life. These include patterns of episodic social cognition, that emerge during social interaction or during states of mind-wandering, and, patterns of deliberate task focus that are linked to the process of executive control and emerge while at work or during complex tasks in the laboratory. Studies using brain imaging establish that these distinct patterns of thought have specific associations with brain activity, particularly with regions of association cortex, including the fronto-parietal and the default mode networks. Together, this work demonstrates that the landscape of ongoing thought is heterogeneous, reflected in the activity of multiple neural systems and supports features of cognition important acting efficiently in the moment, as well as the capacity to explore distant times and places using imagination.