Self-caught Methodologies for Measuring Mind Wandering with Meta-awareness: A Systematic Review

Maria T. Chu, Elizabeth Marks, Cassandra L. Smith, Paul Chadwick

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1 Citation (SciVal)


Mind wandering, also known as task-unrelated thought, refers to the drift of attention from a focal task or train of thought. Because self-caught measures of mind wandering require participants to spontaneously indicate when they notice their attention drift, self-caught methodologies provide a way to measure mind wandering with meta-awareness. Given the proposed role of meta-awareness in mental health and psychological interventions, an overview of existing self-caught methodologies would help clinicians and researchers make informed decisions when choosing or adapting a mind wandering or meta-awareness measure. This systematic review included 39 studies after 790 studies were assessed for eligibility. All studies operationalised mind wandering as instances of attention drift from a primary task. Three types of primary task were identified: (1) tasks adapted from computerised continuous performance tests (CPT) of sustained attention, (2) tasks involving focusing on the breath or a stream of aural beats, akin to in-vivo mindfulness meditation, (3) tasks involving an everyday life activity such as reading. Although data on mind wandering without meta-awareness (e.g., measured with probe-caught measures) was also obtained in many studies, such data was not always used in conjunction with self-caught mind wandering data to determine level of mind wandering meta-awareness. Few studies reported both reliability and validity of the measures used. This review shows that considerable methodological heterogeneity exists in the literature. Methodological variants of self-caught mind wandering methodologies are documented and examined, and suggestions for future research and clinical work are suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103463
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Early online date12 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
No specific funding was received for this study. This study was completed as part of MTC’s Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) at the University of Bath, funded by Health Education England (HEE).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • Consciousness measures
  • Meta-awareness
  • Meta-consciousness
  • Mind-wandering
  • Probe-caught
  • Self-caught

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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