Differential relationships between thought dimensions and momentary affect in daily life

R. F. Thiemann, C. Mills, J. W.Y. Kam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Commonly used to characterize mind wandering, task-unrelated thought has long been associated with negative affective outcomes. However, less is known about how other thought dimensions including intentionality and freedom of movement interact with task-unrelated thought to modulate momentary affect in everyday life. To address this, we used ecological momentary assessments to prompt participants to report their thought patterns and affective valence five times a day for seven consecutive days. Each assessment asked participants to report on their affective valence as well as several thought dimensions including their task-relatedness, intentionality and freedom of movement. We examined the latter two thought dimensions alone as well as how they interacted with the commonly examined dimension of task-relatedness with respect to their relationship to momentary affect. We replicated the well-established negative relationship between task-unrelated thought and momentary affect. Furthermore, unintentional task-unrelated thought was associated with more negative affect than intentional thought. This pattern was also observed more broadly in thoughts regardless of their task relevance. In contrast, freely moving thought was positively related to momentary affect in general. A significant interaction between task-relatedness and freedom of movement of thought revealed that the commonly reported negative relationship between task-unrelated thought and more negative affect is mitigated by freely moving thought. In summary, our findings indicate that these various thought dimensions have unique relationships with momentary affect, highlighting the importance of accounting for thought dimensions in establishing its affective and possibly other functional consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1632-1643
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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