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Self-reflection and the temporal focus of the wandering mind

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Smallwood,  Jonathan
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Smallwood, J., Schooler, J. W., Turk, D. J., Cunningham, S. J., Burns, P., & Macrae, C. N. (2011). Self-reflection and the temporal focus of the wandering mind. Consciousness and Cognition, 20(4), 1120-1126. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.12.017.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-1C41-5
Abstract
Current accounts suggest that self-referential thought serves a pivotal function in the human ability to simulate the future during mind-wandering. Using experience sampling, this hypothesis was tested in two studies that explored the extent to which self-reflection impacts both retrospection and prospection during mind-wandering. Study 1 demonstrated that a brief period of self-reflection yielded a prospective bias during mind-wandering such that participants’ engaged more frequently in spontaneous future than past thought. In Study 2, individual differences in the strength of self-referential thought — as indexed by the memorial advantage for self rather than other-encoded items — was shown to vary with future thinking during mind-wandering. Together these results confirm that self-reflection is a core component of future thinking during mind-wandering and provide novel evidence that a key function of the autobiographical memory system may be to mentally simulate events in the future.