Different efficiencies of attentional orienting in different wandering minds

Nantu Hu, Sheng He, Baihua Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


This study examined the relations between properties of attentional networks and Mind Wandering (MW) across individuals. For the attentional networks, we measured three components of attention, known as alerting, orienting, and executive control, using the Attention Network Test (ANT). To investigate MW, we measured thought probes embedded in the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART). Moreover, four performance characteristics of the SART were calculated as behavioral indices of MW. Three of them showed significant associations with probed MW. Most research regarding MW focused on its relation to executive functions, while the present study revealed that MW, as indexed by self-reports and RT variability, was negatively correlated with orienting, specifically the exogenous orienting system. Furthermore, there was a positive association between RT variability and executive control. Our results suggest that individuals with higher tendency of MW are less sensitive to irrelevant external stimuli, supporting the decoupling hypothesis of MW.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-148
Number of pages10
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thanks to Dr. Jin Fan for his advice on the manipulation of the ANT, to Dr. Xiaolan Song for her inspiring suggestions, to Robert W. Shannon for proofreading, and to two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments and helpful suggestions on earlier versions of the manuscript. This study was supported by NSFC (No. 030900389 ), Zhejiang Provincial Social Sciences Foundation (No. 08CGJY014YB ), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.


  • Alerting
  • Attentional networks
  • Executive control
  • Exogenous orienting
  • Mind Wandering
  • Orienting
  • RT variability


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