A wandering mind does not stray far from home: The value of metacognition in distant search
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/5229
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Abstract© 2015 Kudesia et al. When faced with a problem, how do individuals search for potential solutions? In this article, we explore the cognitive processes that lead to local search (i.e., identifying options closest to existing solutions) and distant search (i.e., identifying options of a qualitatively different nature than existing solutions). We suggest that mind wandering is likely to lead to local search because it operates by spreading activation from initial ideas to closely associated ideas. This reduces the likelihood of accessing a qualitatively different solution. However, instead of getting lost in thought, individuals can also step back and monitor their thoughts from a detached perspective. Such mindful metacognition, we suggest, is likely to lead to distant search because it redistributes activation away from initial ideas to other, less strongly associated, ideas. This hypothesis was confirmed across two studies. Thus, getting lost in thoughts is helpful when one is on the right track and needs only a local search whereas stepping back from thoughts is helpful when one needs distant search to produce a change in perspective.
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