Mind-wandering has recently come to occupy a central position in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Most theories and research so far have examined it in terms of task-unrelated or stimulus-independent mental contents that occur at particular moments of time. A defining feature of mind-wandering, however, are its dynamics: how thought moves over time. In this talk, she will introduce a dynamic framework for understanding mind-wandering and its neural basis. She will propose that mind-wandering is best understood as a member of a larger family of spontaneous thought processes – a family that also includes creative thought and dreaming. She will distinguish between two types of constraints on thought – deliberate and automatic – that can reduce thought’s spontaneous movement. Within this framework, fluctuations between spontaneous, automatic, and deliberate modes of thinking correspond to changing interactions among large-scale brain networks. Finally, the framework situates spontaneous thought within a broader conceptual space that allows its comparison to goal-directed thought, as well as to clinical disorders that make thought excessively constrained – such as in rumination and anxiety, or excessively variable – such as in ADHD.

Kalina Christoff, PhD

University of British Columbia

Kalina Christoff is a Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Her work focuses on understanding human thought, using a combination of functional neuroimaging (fMRI), … MORE