In 1890 William James suggested, what remains to this day, a commonly accepted definition of attention: “Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought”. While research in the last century expanded our understanding of how external attention operates (the "objects"), this century has seen a growth in our understanding of how attention bears on spontaneous self generated thoughts (the "trains of thought", as exemplified by the experience of mind-wandering or daydreaming).
Mind wandering is an universal phenomenon that has known benefits and costs. In our lab we research the cognitive and neural characteristics of the phenomenon and what regulates its occurrence.