Negative mood and mind wandering increase long-range temporal correlations in attention fluctuations

Mona Irrmischer*, C. Natalie van der Wal, Huibert D. Mansvelder, Klaus Linkenkaer-Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


There is growing evidence that the intermittent nature of mind wandering episodes and mood have a pronounced influence on trial-to-trial variability in performance. Nevertheless, the temporal dynamics and significance of such lapses in attention remains inadequately understood. Here, we hypothesize that the dynamics of fluctuations in sustained attention between external and internal sources of information obey so-called critical-state dynamics, characterized by trial-to-trial dependencies with long-range temporal correlations. To test this, we performed behavioral investigations measuring reaction times in a visual sustained attention task and cued introspection in probe-caught reports of mind wandering. We show that trial-to-trial variability in reaction times exhibit long-range temporal correlations in agreement with the criticality hypothesis. Interestingly, we observed the fastest responses in subjects with the weakest long-range temporal correlations and show the vital effect of mind wandering and bad mood on this response variability. The implications of these results stress the importance of future research to increase focus on behavioral variability.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0196907
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2018

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