We test the mnemonic benefit of having a mind that distracts itself with unresolved matters. In 5 studies, conducted in quasi-naturalistic settings, using both self-reported and experience-sampled measures of intention-related intrusions, we establish the reminding value entailed in mindwandering. Study 1 verifies that the mind is more likely to wander toward intentions outstanding rather than intentions bygone and provides preliminary evidence that more frequent intention-related intrusions lead to greater success at realizing the intention. Studies 2–5 replicate the self-reminding effect of mindwandering. Studies 2–4 examine whether committing to an intention in a setting replete with distinctive versus banal contextual details increases the number of retrieval pathways down which the mind can wander to the intention, and thus the likelihood that the intention is retrieved in both inopportune (mindwandering) and opportune (enactment) moments. Study 5 reveals that enriched details of the commitment moment can increase the likelihood that the delayed goal will be enacted, even when the details are self-generated.
Mason, Malia, and Nicholas Reinholtz. "Avenues down which a self-reminding mind can wander." Motivation Science 1, no. 1 (March 2015): 1-21.
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