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Psychological Research

, Volume 83, Issue 5, pp 1057–1069 | Cite as

Increasing participant motivation reduces rates of intentional and unintentional mind wandering

  • Paul SeliEmail author
  • Daniel L. Schacter
  • Evan F. Risko
  • Daniel Smilek
Original Article

Abstract

We explored the possibility that increasing participants’ motivation to perform well on a focal task can reduce mind wandering. Participants completed a sustained-attention task either with standard instructions (normal motivation), or with instructions informing them that they could be excused from the experiment early if they achieved a certain level of performance (higher motivation). Throughout the task, we assessed rates of mind wandering (both intentional and unintentional types) via thought probes. Results showed that the motivation manipulation led to significant reductions in both intentional and unintentional mind wandering as well as improvements in task performance. Most critically, we found that our simple motivation manipulation led to a dramatic reduction in probe-caught mind-wandering rates (49%) compared to a control condition (67%), which suggests the utility of motivation-based methods to reduce people’s propensity to mind-wander.

Notes

Author contributions

This work was supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Grant to D. Smilek, and by an NSERC Post-Doctoral Fellowship to P. Seli. We would like to extend our thanks to Brandon Ralph for his help with data collection.

Compliance with ethical standards

Funding

This work was supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Grant (Grant number 06459) to Daniel Smilek.

Conflict of interest

Paul Seli declares that he has no conflict of interest. Daniel L. Schacter declares that he has no conflict of interest. Evan F. Risko declares that he has no conflict of interest. Daniel Smilek declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

426_2017_914_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Seli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel L. Schacter
    • 1
  • Evan F. Risko
    • 2
  • Daniel Smilek
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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