Why does the mind wander?

Neuroscience of Consciousness (forthcoming)
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I seek an explanation for the etiology and the function of mind wandering episodes. My proposal – which I call the cognitive control proposal – is that mind wandering is a form of non-conscious guidance due to cognitive control. When the agent’s current goal is deemed insufficiently rewarding, the cognitive control system initiates a search for a new, more rewarding goal. This search is the process of unintentional mind wandering. After developing the proposal, and relating it to literature on mind wandering and on cognitive control, I discuss explanations the proposal affords, testable predictions the proposal makes, and philosophical implications the proposal has.



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Joshua Shepherd
Carleton University

Citations of this work

Flow and the dynamics of conscious thought.Joshua Shepherd - 2022 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 21 (4):969-988.
What are the benefits of mind wandering to creativity?Samuel Murray, Nathan Liang, Nick Brosowsky & Paul Seli - forthcoming - Psychology of Creativity, Aesthetics, and the Arts.
The Algorithms of Mindfulness.Johannes Bruder - 2022 - Science, Technology, and Human Values 47 (2):291-313.

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