Faculty Articles


Don’t think about it: Understanding the role of mind wandering in stress related working memory impairments

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Working memory; mind wandering; stress; thought suppression

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Cognition and Emotion




Mind wandering has been identified as a possible cause for stress-related working memory (WM) task impairments following laboratory stressors. The current study attempted to induce mind wandering regarding negative, positive, or neutral events using an expressive writing task and examined the impact on WM task performance. We examined the role of mind wandering in understanding the impact of life stress on WM. Additionally, we explored the role of thought suppression on the relationship between mind wandering and WM. One hundred and fifty participants completed WM measures before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) the writing manipulation. The writing manipulation did not alter mind wandering or WM task performance. Time 1 WM predicted mind wandering during the Time 2 WM task, which subsequently predicted poorer Time 2 WM task performance. The impact of daily life stress on WM was mediated by mind wandering. Trait levels of thought suppression moderated the impact of mind wandering on WM. Specifically, higher levels of suppression resulted in stronger negative impact of mind wandering on WM task performance. Findings are discussed in terms of the impact of mind wandering on WM task performance.



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