Date of Award
The phenomenon of mind wandering involves a situation in which a person's executive control switches from the current task to unrelated thoughts (Smallwood & Schooler, 2006). Previous research has indicated that individuals mind wander more often when they are in negative moods than when they are happier (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010; Smallwood, 2009). One theory of mind wandering, the Working Memory Capacity Theory, claims that participants with a lower working memory capacity (WMC) experience more mind wandering during a challenging primary task than participants with a higher WMC because those with higher WMC can better use their executive control to remain on task than individuals with lower WMC (Kane et al., 2007; McVay & Kane, 2009). The current study investigated the relationship between mood and both the frequency and the content of mind wandering. It also expanded upon past research by addressing whether WMC impacts the valence of task unrelated thoughts. Results showed that participants in an unpleasant mood demonstrated more task unrelated mind wandering than those in a pleasant mood, consistent with the past literature. In addition, participants in an unpleasant mood reported more unpleasant thoughts than those in a pleasant mood. When the sample was divided into high and low WMC groups, the low WMC group reported more non-task-related thoughts while completing the word search than the high WMC group. Participants with a lower WMC also demonstrated more negative thoughts than those with a higher WMC particularly when thinking about how they were performing on the word search task.
Summers, Kristi Michelle, "If You're Happy and You Know It: Concentrate!" (2012). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 154.