Date of Award

8-31-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Miller, Carlin

Rights

CC-BY-NC-ND

Abstract

Mind wandering is a commonly experienced phenomenon that has been the focus of more research over the past few decades. In keeping with changing terminology used to characterize the experience, our understanding of the construct continues to evolve. The current dissertation, composed of three separate studies, sought to build on these recent advancements by adding to our understanding of 1) the assessment of mind wandering, 2) the association between mind wandering and symptoms of attention disorders, and 3) how mindfulness training may impact mind wandering frequency. Study one used ecological momentary assessments (EMA) to investigate the utility of three measures of mind wandering (i.e., Mind Wandering Questionnaire (MWQ), and the Mind Wandering – Spontaneous (MW-S) and Deliberate scales (MW-D) in a university sample (N = 100). Results showed that reporting more mind wandering episodes during the EMA data collection was associated with higher scores on two mind wandering measures (MWQ and MWS), but was not significantly correlated with the MW-D score. The findings highlighted the benefit of using EMA to validate self-report measures designed to capture mind wandering. The second study examined the relation between symptoms of attention difficulties (i.e., Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms and Sluggish Cognitive Tempo (SCT) symptoms) and mind wandering in a group of university students (N = 161). Hierarchical regression analyses were done in an effort to identify the unique contribution of the different symptom dimensions on trait levels of mind wandering. Endorsement of Sluggish Cognitive Tempo symptoms was found to be a consistent predictor across the different measures of mind wandering, with symptoms of ADHD also predicting the MWQ and MW-S scores. The findings reaffirm the association between mind wandering and attention difficulties. Lastly, building on research demonstrating the positive impact of mindfulness training on attention, the third study was designed with the aim of examining if participation in a mindfulness intervention is associated with reduced self-reported mind wandering and if endorsement of ADHD symptoms can help predict change in mind wandering post-training. Twelve participants recruited from a community in Southwestern Ontario participated in an instructor-led eight-week mindfulness intervention, with the results showing no decrease in self-reported mind wandering following the intervention. ADHD symptom endorsement was also not found to be a significant predictor of change in mind wandering. Importantly, the findings were interpreted with consideration of the recruitment difficulties encountered and insufficient power resulting from the small sample size. In sum, the results from the three studies provide evidence in support of the use of self-report measures of mind wandering, and demonstrate the importance of examining the association between mind wandering and attention disorder symptoms. The findings also reaffirm the need to differentiate between spontaneous and deliberate mind wandering and highlight the potential clinical implications.

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