Mind-wandering in younger and older adults: converging evidence from the Sustained Attention to Response Task and reading for comprehension

Psychol Aging. 2012 Mar;27(1):106-119. doi: 10.1037/a0023933. Epub 2011 Jun 27.


One mechanism that has been hypothesized to contribute to older adults' changes in cognitive performance is goal neglect or impairment in maintaining task set across time. Mind-wandering and task-unrelated thought may underlie these potential age-related changes. The present study investigated age-related changes in mind-wandering in three different versions of the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), along with self-reported mind-wandering during a reading for comprehension task. In the SART, both younger and older adults produced similar levels of faster reaction times before No-Go errors of commission, whereas, older adults produced disproportionate post-error slowing. Subjective self-reports of mind-wandering recorded during the SART and the reading task indicated that older adults were less likely to report mind-wandering than younger adults. Discussion focuses on cognitive and motivational mechanisms that may account for older adults' relatively low levels of reported mind-wandering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Awareness
  • Comprehension*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reading*
  • Self Report
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Thinking*
  • Young Adult