The Impact of Mind Wandering on Memory for Central and Peripheral Text Ideas

The Impact of Mind Wandering on Memory for Central and Peripheral Text Ideas

First Author: Amanda C. Miller -- Regis University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Hannah Christensen; Irene Adjei; Lauren Dunlap; Naomi Tubbs; Tricia Charfauros
Keywords: Comprehension, Attention, Text Comprehension, Adult Students, Working memory
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose

The primary purpose of this study was to test whether mind wandering while reading differentially impacts a reader’s memory for central versus peripheral ideas. We also tested the extent to which mind wandering shares variance with working memory, self-reported attention, and inhibition.

Method

Undergraduates (n = 40; data collection ongoing) completed measures of comprehension (Gates MacGinitie and an experimental Read and Recall task), decoding (Word ID; Word Attack), working memory (WAIS Forward/Backward Digit Span; Letter-Number Sequencing), and inhibition (Stop Signal Reaction Time). We measured mind wandering using self-caught probes.

Results

Preliminary regression analyses showed that after controlling for reading skill, mind wandering significantly predicted recall of central ideas (β = -.32, p = .04), but not peripheral ideas (β = -.06, p = .72). The negative relation between mind wandering and recall of central ideas remained after controlling for working memory, self-reported attention, and inhibition in subsequent regressions.

Conclusions

Mind wandering negatively impacted recall of central, but not peripheral, ideas. This supports existing theories that recalling central ideas requires the reader to successfully form connections among the semantically related concepts. Mind wandering likely disrupts this process, leaving the reader with a fuzzier distinction between central and peripheral ideas. The finding that mind wandering was still related to recall of central ideas when controlling for working memory, self-reported attention, and inhibition suggests that mind wandering might be considered a unique construct, rather than a proxy for one of these other measures.