Title of Project

Stress, cognitive functioning, mind wandering, and mindfulness: A latent variable examination

Researcher Information

Edward Zacka
Lindsay Craig

Project Type


Start Date

7-4-2017 12:00 AM

End Date

7-4-2017 12:00 AM

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Apr 7th, 12:00 AM Apr 7th, 12:00 AM

Stress, cognitive functioning, mind wandering, and mindfulness: A latent variable examination

Stress is a common facet of daily life. Unfortunately, a clear pattern of a negative impact of stress on a variety of cognitive functions has emerged. For instance, psychological stress has been shown to impair working memory (Banks & Boals, 2016; Klein & Boals, 2001) and perceived stress and PTSD symptoms have been linked to poorer self-report everyday cognitive functioning (Boals & Banks, 2012). Mind wandering—or thoughts unrelated to the current task —increases as a result of daily stressors and increases in mind wandering lead to decreases in cognitive functioning (Banks & Boals, 2016). Mindfulness meditation training improves working memory task performance and reduces negative affect (Jha, Stanley, Kiyonaga, Wong, & Gelfand, 2010). Therefore, mindfulness may alter both perceived stress and self-report cognitive functioning. One main limitation to prior work is the reliance on single measures of critical constructs. The current study addressed this concern by modeling the relationships between stress, self-reported cognitive functioning, mindfulness, and mind wandering using a latent variable approach. Participants completed three self-report measures of each latent construct of interest: cognitive functioning, stress, mind wandering, and mindfulness. Structural equation model analysis suggested a well-fitting model with four latent variables,χ2 = 129.61, p < .0001, RMSEA= 0.105, CFI= 0.938. Consistent with our hypotheses, stress was negatively related to cognitive functioning, whereas mindfulness was positively related to cognitive functioning and negatively related to stress. Stress was predictive of mind wandering, but in contrast to previous research, mind wandering was not negatively linked to cognitive functioning.