The link between mind wandering and learning in children

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Abstract

Mind wandering is a common everyday experience during which attention shifts from the here and now; in adults and adolescents, it is associated with poorer performance in educationally significant tasks. This study is the first to directly assess the impact of mind wandering on memory retention in children before the adolescent period. A sample of 97 children aged 6–11 years engaged in a listening activity, and the frequency of mind wandering was measured using intermittent thought probes. Participants then completed a memory retention test. Children reported mind wandering on ∼25% of the thought probes, and frequency did not increase with age. When controlling for the impact of age and vocabulary skills, mind wandering frequency accounted for a large and significant portion of variance in memory scores. Mind wandering frequency also mediated the relation between children’s ratings of topic interest and memory scores. The results indicate that mind wandering can be reliably measured in children and is of educational significance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105367
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume217
Early online date19 Jan 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2022

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Child development
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Mind wandering
  • Task-unrelated thought

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