Why does the mind wander?

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Abstract
I seek an explanation for the etiology and the function of mind wandering episodes. My proposal – which I call the cognitive control proposal – is that mind wandering is a form of non-conscious guidance due to cognitive control. When the agent’s current goal is deemed insufficiently rewarding, the cognitive control system initiates a search for a new, more rewarding goal. This search is the process of unintentional mind wandering. After developing the proposal, and relating it to literature on mind wandering and on cognitive control, I discuss explanations the proposal affords, testable predictions the proposal makes, and philosophical implications the proposal has.
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Archival date: 2019-09-10
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2019-09-10

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