Mind-Wandering With and Without Intention

Trends Cogn Sci. 2016 Aug;20(8):605-617. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2016.05.010. Epub 2016 Jun 16.


The past decade has seen a surge of research examining mind-wandering, but most of this research has not considered the potential importance of distinguishing between intentional and unintentional mind-wandering. However, a recent series of papers have demonstrated that mind-wandering reported in empirical investigations frequently occurs with and without intention, and, more crucially, that intentional and unintentional mind-wandering are dissociable. This emerging literature suggests that, to increase clarity in the literature, there is a need to reconsider the bulk of the mind-wandering literature with an eye toward deconvolving these two different cognitive experiences. In this review we highlight recent trends in investigations of the intentionality of mind-wandering, and we outline a novel theoretical framework regarding the mechanisms underlying intentional and unintentional mind-wandering.

Keywords: deliberate; intentional; intentionality; mind-wandering; spontaneous; unintentional.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Comprehension / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Motivation / physiology
  • Thinking / physiology*