Despite increasing scientific interest in self-generated thought-mental content largely independent of the immediate environment-there has yet to be any comprehensive synthesis of the subjective experience and neural correlates of affect in these forms of thinking. Here, we aim to develop an integrated affective neuroscience encompassing many forms of self-generated thought-normal and pathological, moderate and excessive, in waking and in sleep. In synthesizing existing literature on this topic, we reveal consistent findings pertaining to the prevalence, valence, and variability of emotion in (...) self-generated thought, and highlight how these factors might interact with self-generated thought to influence general well-being. We integrate these psychological findings with recent neuroimaging research, bringing attention to the neural correlates of affect in self-generated thought. We show that affect in self-generated thought is prevalent, positively biased, highly variable (both within and across individuals), and consistently recruits many brain areas implicated in emotional processing, including the orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and medial prefrontal cortex. Many factors modulate these typical psychological and neural patterns, however; the emerging affective neuroscience of self-generated thought must endeavor to link brain function and subjective experience in both everyday self-generated thought as well as its dysfunctions in mental illness. (shrink)
A central feature of our waking mental experience is that our attention naturally toggles back and forth between “external” and “internal” stimuli. In the midst of an externally demanding task, attention can involuntarily shift internally with no clear reason how or why thoughts momentarily shifted inward. In the case of external attention, we are typically exploring and encoding aspects of our external world, whereas internal attention often involves searching for and retrieving potentially relevant information from our memory networks. Cognitive science (...) has traditionally focused on understanding forms of internal and external attention separately, leaving a mystery about what sparks the seemingly automatic shifts between the two. Specifically, what shifts attentional focus from being outward‐directed to being inward‐directed? We present a candidate mechanism: Familiarity‐detection. (shrink)
Task-unrelated thought (TUT) occurs frequently in our daily lives and across a range of tasks, but we know little about how this phenomenon arises during and influences the way we communicate. Conversations also provide a novel opportunity to assess the alignment (or divergence) in TUT during dyadic interactions. We conducted a study to determine: (a) the frequency of TUT during conversation as well as how partners align/diverge in their rates of TUT, (b) the subjective and behavioral correlates of TUT and (...) TUT divergence during conversation, and (c) if perceived social group identity impacts TUT and TUT divergence during conversation. We used a minimal groups induction procedure to assign participants (N = 126) to either an ingroup, outgroup, or control condition. We then asked them to converse with one another via a computer-mediated text chat application for 10 min while self-reporting TUTs. On average, participants reported TUT about once every 2 min; however, this rate was lower for participants in the ingroup condition, compared to the control condition. Conversational pairs in the ingroup condition were also aligned more in their rates of TUT compared to the outgroup condition. Finally, we discuss subjective and behavioral correlates of TUT and TUT divergence in conversations, such as valence, turn-taking ratios, and topic shifts. (shrink)
We propose that IAM and déjà vu may not share a placement on the same gradient, per se, but the mechanism of cue familiarity detection, and a major differentiating factor between the two metacognitive experiences is whether the resulting inward directed search of memory yields retrieved content or not. Déjà vu may manifest when contentless familiarity detection is inexplicable by the experiencer.