Mind-wandering refers to the occurrence of thoughts whose content is both decoupled from stimuli present in the current environment and unrelated to the task being carried out at the moment of their occurrence. The core of this phenomenon is therefore stimulus-independent and task-unrelated thoughts (SITUTs). In the present study, we designed a novel experience sampling method which permitted to isolate SITUTs from other kinds of distractions (i.e., irrelevant interoceptive/exteroceptive sensory perceptions and interfering thoughts related to the appraisal of the current task). In Experiment 1, we examined the impact of SITUTs on the performance of the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART; a Go/No-Go task). Analyses demonstrated that SITUTs impair SART performance to the same extent as irrelevant sensory perceptions. In Experiment 2, we further examined SITUTs in order to assess the possible functions of mind-wandering. We observed that the content of most of reported SITUTs refers to the anticipation and planning of future events. Furthermore, this "prospective bias" was increased when participants' attention had been oriented toward their personal goals before performing the SART. These data support the view that an important function of mind-wandering relates to the anticipation and planning of the future.
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