Self-reflection and the temporal focus of the wandering mind

Jonathan Smallwood*, Jonathan W. Schooler, David J. Turk, Sheila J. Cunningham, Phebe Burns, C. Neil Macrae

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

108 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Current accounts suggest that self-referential thought serves a pivotal function in the human ability to simulate the future during mind-wandering. Using experience sampling, this hypothesis was tested in two studies that explored the extent to which self-reflection impacts both retrospection and prospection during mind-wandering. Study 1 demonstrated that a brief period of self-reflection yielded a prospective bias during mind-wandering such that participants' engaged more frequently in spontaneous future than past thought. In Study 2, individual differences in the strength of self-referential thought as indexed by the memorial advantage for self rather than other-encoded items - was shown to vary with future thinking during mind-wandering. Together these results confirm that self-reflection is a core component of future thinking during mind-wandering and provide novel evidence that a key function of the autobiographical memory system may be to mentally simulate events in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1120-1126
Number of pages7
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Volume20
Issue number4
Early online date31 Jan 2011
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

Cite this

Smallwood, J., Schooler, J. W., Turk, D. J., Cunningham, S. J., Burns, P., & Macrae, C. N. (2011). Self-reflection and the temporal focus of the wandering mind. Consciousness and Cognition, 20(4), 1120-1126. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2010.12.017