College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

Examining the role of emotional valence of mind wandering: All mind wandering is not equal

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2016

Keywords

Mind wandering; Emotional valence; Working memory; Sustained attention

Publication Title

Consciousness and Cognition

ISSN

1053-8100

Volume

43

Abstract

To evaluate the role of emotional valence on the impact of mind wandering on working memory (WM) and sustained attention, we reanalyzed data from three independently conducted studies that examined the impact of stress on WM (Banks & Boals, 2016; Banks, Welhaf, & Srour, 2015) and sustained attention (Banks, Tartar, & Welhaf, 2014). Across all studies, participants reported the content of their thoughts at random intervals during the WM or sustained attention task. Thought probes in all studies included a core set of response options for task-unrelated thoughts (TUTs) that were negatively, positively, or neutrally emotionally valenced. In line with theories of emotional valenced stimuli on capture of attention, results suggest negatively valenced TUTs, but not positively valenced TUTs, were related to poorer WM and sustained attention in two studies. Neutral TUTs were related to poorer WM but not sustained attention performance. Implications for models of mind wandering are discussed.

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