Accumulating evidence suggests that individuals with greater executive resources spend less time mind wandering. Independent strands of research further suggest that this association depends on concentration and a guilty-dysphoric daydreaming style. However, it remains unclear whether this association is specific to particular features of executive functioning or certain operationalizations of mind wandering, including task-unrelated thoughts (TUTs, comprising external distractions and mind wandering) and stimulus independent and task-unrelated thoughts (SITUTs, comprising mind wandering only). This study sought to clarify these associations by using confirmatory factor analysis to compute latent scores for distinct executive functioning based on nine cognitive tasks and relating them to experience sampling reports of mind wandering. We expected that individuals with greater executive control (specifically updating) would show a stronger reduction in SITUTs as momentary concentration and guilty-dysphoric style increase. A bifactor model of the cognitive battery indicated a general factor (common executive function) and ancillary factors (updating and shifting). A significant interaction between updating and concentration on mind wandering was observed with mind wandering defined as TUTs, but not as SITUTs (N = 187). A post-hoc analysis clarified this discrepancy by showing that as concentration increases, both external distractions and mind wandering decrease more strongly among people with greater updating. Moreover, common executive function predicted a more negative slope of guilty-dysphoric style on SITUTs, whereas updating and shifting predicted more positive slopes. The opposite slopes of these executive functions on daily life mind wandering may reflect a stability-flexibility trade-off between goal maintenance and goal replacement abilities.


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Journal: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. 2022 Mar 26

Keywords: concentration, ecological momentary assessment, experience sampling, mind wandering, task-switching, working memory capacity,

Applications: Neuropsychology,

CamNtech Reference: PD22001

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