Concern-induced negative affect is associated with the occurrence and content of mind-wandering

Consciousness and Cognition 22 (2):442-448 (2013)
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Abstract

Previous research has shown that the content and frequency of mind-wandering episodes—the occurrence of thoughts that are both stimulus-independent and task-unrelated—are closely related to an individual’s future-related concerns. Whether this relationship is shaped by the affective changes that are usually associated with future-related concerns still remains unclear, however. In this study, we induced the anticipation of a negatively valenced event and examined whether the ensuing affective changes were related to the occurrence and content of mind-wandering during an unrelated attentional task. We found that the increase in negative affect following concern induction predicted the general frequency of mind-wandering episodes. Furthermore, mind-wandering episodes specifically directed at the induced concern were related to a lower decrease in negative affect during the attentional task. These results suggest that the negative emotional impact of future-related concerns is an important factor to be taken into consideration for the subsequent occurrence of mind-wandering episodes, which might in turn be involved in the maintenance of negative affect over time

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