Driven to distraction: A lack of change gives rise to mind wandering

Myrthe Faber, Gabriel A. Radvansky, Sidney K. D'Mello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


How does the dynamic structure of the external world direct attention? We examined the relationship between event structure and attention to test the hypothesis that narrative shifts (both theoretical and perceived) negatively predict attentional lapses. Self-caught instances of mind wandering were collected while 108 participants watched a 32.5 min film called The Red Balloon. We used theoretical codings of situational change and human perceptions of event boundaries to predict mind wandering in 5-s intervals. Our findings suggest a temporal alignment between the structural dynamics of the film and mind wandering reports. Specifically, the number of situational changes and likelihood of perceiving event boundaries in the prior 0–15 s interval negatively predicted mind wandering net of low-level audiovisual features. Thus, mind wandering is less likely to occur when there is more event change, suggesting that narrative shifts keep attention from drifting inwards.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-137
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Event cognition
  • Film comprehension
  • Mind wandering


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