TitleA Computational Model of Mind Wandering
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2015
AuthorsHiatt, LM, Trafton, JG
Conference NameProceedings of the 37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
Date PublishedJuly 2015
Conference LocationPasadena, CA

We present a computational cognitive model of mind wandering, an important cognitive phenomenon whose mechanisms are involved in insight, problem-solving, and creativity. The model posits that mind wandering begins when one is not engaged in goal-oriented cognition, whether when between tasks or when in the middle of a task but not actively thinking about one’s goal. At such times, the model thinks about other, highly-activated thoughts in memory. This model sheds light on both how task-oriented and more basic cognitive processes interact, as well as how mind wandering content is generated; both unresolved questions for mind wandering research. We compare our model against data presented by McVay and Kane (2013), who induced mind wandering in a laboratory setting by embedding participants’ personal goals and concerns in a lexical SART task. Overall, our model matched the data’s mind wandering rates very well. We discuss implications and future work on the model.

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