Shifting Moods, Wandering Minds: Negative Moods Lead the Mind to Wander

Jonathan Smallwood, Annamay Fitzgerald, Lynden K. Miles, Louise H. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

355 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined the effect of mood states on mind wandering. Positive, neutral, and negative moods were induced in participants prior to them completing a sustained attention task. Mind wandering was measured by using the frequencies of both behavioral lapses and retrospective indices of subjective experience. Relative to a positive mood, induction of a negative mood led participants to make more lapses, report a greater frequency of task irrelevant thoughts, and become less inclined to reengage attentional resources following a lapse. Positive mood, by contrast, was associated with a better ability to adjust performance after a lapse. These results provide further support for the notion that a negative mood reduces the amount of attentional commitment to the task in hand and may do so by enhancing the focus on task irrelevant personal concerns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-276
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


  • attentional lapses
  • attentional commitment
  • mood
  • mind wandering
  • task unrelated/stimulus independent thought and self-focus
  • stimulus-independent thought
  • attention
  • performance
  • depression
  • brain


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