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Harnessing the wandering mind: The role of perceptual load

Forster, S; Lavie, N; (2009) Harnessing the wandering mind: The role of perceptual load. Cognition , 111 (3) pp. 345-355. 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.02.006. Green open access

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Abstract

Perceptual load is a key determinant of distraction by task-irrelevant stimuli (e.g., Lavie, N. (2005). Distracted and confused?: Selective attention under load. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9, 75–82). Here we establish the role of perceptual load in determining an internal form of distraction by task-unrelated thoughts (TUTs or “mind-wandering”). Four experiments demonstrated reduced frequency of TUTs with high compared to low perceptual load in a visual-search task. Alternative accounts in terms of increased demands on responses, verbal working memory or motivation were ruled out and clear effects of load were found for unintentional TUTs. Individual differences in load effects on internal (TUTs) and external (response-competition) distractors were correlated. These results suggest that exhausting attentional capacity in task-relevant processing under high perceptual load can reduce processing of task-irrelevant information from external and internal sources alike.

Type: Article
Title: Harnessing the wandering mind: The role of perceptual load
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.02.006
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2009.02.006
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Task-unrelated thoughts, Mind-wandering, Perceptual load, Attention, Response competition, Distractor interference
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10114057
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