A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
Science (Impact Factor: 33.61). 11/2010; 330(6006):932. DOI: 10.1126/science.1192439
Source: PubMed


We developed a smartphone technology to sample people’s ongoing thoughts, feelings, and actions and found (i) that people
are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is and (ii) found that doing so typically
makes them unhappy.

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    • "Fifth, emotionality and ST have been shown to influence each other in a reciprocal and complex way (Varendonck, 1921). Experimental manipulations for increasing negative mood enhance levels of mindwandering (Smallwood, Fitzgerald, Miles, & Phillips, 2009), whereas an experience-sampling study suggested that being off-task might enhance future levels of unhappiness (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010), but Klinger (2013b) argues and Poerio et al. (2013) present data to show that affect reflects the content of ST, rather than ST as such. From a neurobiological standpoint, a recent meta-analysis provided evidence that ST and socioemotional processing partially rely on common brain areas belonging to the DMN, such as dorsal MPFC and precuneus (Schilbach et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: There is increasing interest in spontaneous thought, namely task-unrelated or rest-related mental activity. Spontaneous thought is an umbrella term for processes like mindwandering, involuntary autobiographical memory, and daydreaming, with evidence elucidating adaptive and maladaptive consequences. In this theoretical framework, we propose that, apart from its positive functions, spontaneous thought is a precursor for cognitive vulnerability in individuals who are at-risk for mood disorders. Importantly, spontaneous thought mostly focuses on unattained goals and evaluates the discrepancy between current and desired status (Klinger, 1971, 2013a). In individuals who stably (i.e., trait negative affectivity) or transitorily (i.e., stress) experience negative emotions in reaction to goal-discrepancy, spontaneous thought fosters major cognitive vulnerabilities (e.g., rumination, hopelessness, low self-esteem, and cognitive reactivity) which, in turn, enhance depression. Furthermore, we also highlight preliminary links between spontaneous thought and bipolar disorder. The evidence for this framework is reviewed and we discuss theoretical and clinical implications of our proposal.
    Clinical Psychological Science 11/2015;
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    • "Mind wandering, also known as daydreaming, refers to a kind of spontaneous and task unrelated thought, which may involve a failure of cognitive control (Antrobus et al., 1966; Carriere et al., 2008; Gold and Reilly, 1985; Klos and Singer, 1981; McVay and Kane, 2010). It is a frequent experience for most people, with evidence suggesting that it occupies 30–50% of our waking hours (Killingsworth and Gilbert, 2010; Song and Wang, 2012). But mind wandering occurs at some cost, being associated with disrupted performance on sustained attention, working memory and reading tasks (McVay et al., 2009; Smallwood et al., 2008a). "
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    ABSTRACT: Although mind wandering as a cognitive distraction is universal in our daily driving, very few studies have focused on the impact of mind wandering on driving behavior. In this study, the relationship between mind wandering during everyday life and dangerous driving behavior was investigated. 295 drivers completed the Mind Wandering scale (MW), the Dula Dangerous Driving Index (DDDI), and Demographic questionnaire. The results showed that the frequency of mind wandering was positively correlated with risky driving, aggressive driving, negative cognitive/emotional driving and drunk driving as measured by the DDDI. In addition, drivers’ mind wandering was also positively correlated with self-reported traffic accidents, penalty points and fines. Moreover, the interaction effects of mind wandering and gender on dangerous driving behavior were also explored. In the high mind wandering group, male drivers reported more risky and negative emotional driving behaviors than did female drivers, but there were no significant differences in the middle and low mind wandering groups. Also, male drivers reported more penalty points and fines, but were involved in fewer accidents than were female drivers. These results present considerable implications for road safety and strategies for self-regulation of mind wandering.
    Safety Science 10/2015; 78. DOI:10.1016/j.ssci.2015.04.016 · 1.83 Impact Factor
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    • "A starting point for the current study is the observation that happiness is often negatively associated with excessive, negative, self-focused processing; that is, rumination. Emerging evidence shows that unhappy people are inclined to dwell on their negative life events, focus on their self-emotions, and feel self-conscious, which results in a variety of adverse consequences (Andrews-Hanna et al., 2013; Killingsworth and Gilbert, 2010; Lyubomirsky et al., 2011; Lyubomirsky et al., 2003; Mason et al., 2013; Nolen-Hoeksema et al., 2008; Stawarczyk et al., 2012). For instance, Killingsworth and Gilbert (2010) collected real-time selfreported instances of mind wandering and happiness from 2250 participants and found that people were less happy when their minds wandered than when not. "
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    ABSTRACT: Happiness refers to people's cognitive and affective evaluation of their life. Why are some people happier than others? One reason might be that unhappy people are prone to ruminate more than happy people. The default mode network (DMN) is normally active during rest and is implicated in rumination. We hypothesized that unhappiness may be associated with increased default-mode functional connectivity during rest, including the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), and inferior parietal lobule (IPL). The hyperconnectivity of these areas may be associated with higher levels of rumination. 148 healthy participants underwent a resting-state fMRI scan. A group-independent component analysis identified the DMNs. Results indicated increased functional connectivity in the DMN was associated with lower levels of happiness. Specifically, relative to happy people, unhappy people exhibited greater functional connectivity in the anterior medial cortex (bilateral MPFC), posterior medial cortex regions (bilateral PCC), and posterior parietal cortex (left IPL). Moreover, the increased functional connectivity of the MPFC, PCC, and IPL, correlated positively with the inclination to ruminate. These results highlight the important role of the DMN in the neural correlates of happiness, and suggest that rumination may play an important role in people's perceived happiness.
    Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 10/2015; DOI:10.1093/scan/nsv132 · 7.37 Impact Factor
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