Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Art History (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Amishi P. Jha

Second Committee Member

Maria M. Llabre

Third Committee Member

Roger C. McIntosh

Fourth Committee Member

Aaron S. Heller

Fifth Committee Member

Scott L. Rogers


Mind wandering (MW) corresponds to performance across a variety of tasks, especially sustained attention. MW has been shown to increase with task-related requirements such as time-on-task, and individual differences, such as depression, and negative mood. The present study sought to investigate mechanisms that increase MW, specifically task-related requirements and individual differences tied to negative mood and depressive symptomology. Participants (N = 69) completed self-report measures of depression and negative mood and the sustained attention to response task (SART) with subjective measures of MW assessed intermittently throughout the task. Self-reported MW and task performance (variability in response time, and non-target accuracy) data were evaluated by hierarchical linear modeling to track trial-by-trial fluctuations in subjective and objective measures of task engagement. I found that MW increased and performance decreased with time-on-task; however, MW did not increase as a function of worsening performance with time-on-task. Further, I found that the relationship between MW and performance was influenced by participants’ self-reported depression scores. Participants reporting higher levels of depression also reported higher MW when their overall performance was worse. These results demonstrate individuals with higher levels of depression report more MW when their performance is at its worst. The implications of this study emphasize the need for future research to focus on the mechanisms underlying the connection between MW, performance, and depression.


Attention; Mind wandering; Cognitive Resources; Affect; Time-on-task

Available for download on Wednesday, June 17, 2020