Daydream Believer: Rumination, Self-Reflection and the Temporal Focus of Mind Wandering Content

Daisy Shrimpton, Deborah McGann, Leigh M. Riby

Abstract


Current research into mind-wandering is beginning to acknowledge that this process is one of heterogeneity. Following on from previous findings highlighting the role of self-focus during mind wandering, the present study aimed to examine individual differences in rumination and self-reflection and the impact such styles of self-focus may have on mind-wandering experiences. Thirty-three participants were required to complete the Sustained Attention Response Task (SART), aimed at inducing mind-wandering episodes, whilst also probing the content of thought in terms of temporal focus. Self-report questionnaires were also administered after the SART to measure dispositional differences in style and beliefs regarding mind-wandering and assessments of individual differences in rumination and self-reflection. Those individuals with reflective self-focus showed a strong positive association with positive and constructive thoughts. Critically, ruminative self-focus was positively associated with a tendency for the mind to wander towards anguished fantasies, failures and aggression, but it was also positively associated with positive and constructive thoughts. Furthermore, while dispositional differences in self-focus showed no relationship with the temporal perspective of thoughts when probed during a cognitive task, performance on the task itself was related to whether participants were thinking about the past, present or future during that activity. Such findings are discussed in line with previous research, and provide a further step towards accounting for the heterogeneous nature of mind-wandering.

Keywords


rumination; self-reflection; mind-wandering; day-dreaming; sustained attention; self-generated thought

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https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v13i4.1425