The restless mind

Psychol Bull. 2006 Nov;132(6):946-958. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.6.946.


This article reviews the hypothesis that mind wandering can be integrated into executive models of attention. Evidence suggests that mind wandering shares many similarities with traditional notions of executive control. When mind wandering occurs, the executive components of attention appear to shift away from the primary task, leading to failures in task performance and superficial representations of the external environment. One challenge for incorporating mind wandering into standard executive models is that it often occurs in the absence of explicit intention--a hallmark of controlled processing. However, mind wandering, like other goal-related processes, can be engaged without explicit awareness; thus, mind wandering can be seen as a goal-driven process, albeit one that is not directed toward the primary task.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Awareness / physiology
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mental Processes / physiology
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Thinking / physiology*