Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Patrick Converse

Second Advisor

Gary Burns

Third Advisor

Catherine Nicholson

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Steelman


Mind wandering is a phenomenon often tackled by cognitive psychologists and overlooked by organizational psychologists, despite numbers suggesting that disengaged employees cost organizations $550 billion a year. Mind wandering is a demonstrated disruptor to cognitive processes like reading and working memory capacity that impair performance but may also be helpful for creative problem solving and autobiographical planning. Despite this, extant research has yet to develop a framework for the antecedents of mind wandering, there are still gaps in our understanding of workplace implications of mind wandering, and it is typically treated as a monolithic construct, ignoring dimensionality. The current research contributes to our understanding of mind wandering by (a) developing a framework of mind wandering antecedents consisting of the “who” (personal characteristics), the “what” (experiences), and the “where” (job characteristics); (b) determining organizationally relevant outcomes of mind wandering; and (c) introducing a mind wandering typology via a Latent Profile Analysis to understand the distinct effects of mind wandering frequency across profiles of mind wanderers. To examine these issues, this study employed an experience sampling method (ESM) involving twice-daily surveys used across 5 days prompting participants about work experiences and behaviors. Results indicated (a) the “who” (personal characteristics) was the strongest predictor of mind wandering across the three families; (b) mind wandering has largely negative workplace outcomes, such as reduced job performance, and more cognitive errors and time wasted; and (c) these negative outcomes are mitigated for adaptive mind wandering profiles. These findings support the control failure x current concerns model of mind wandering, which suggests that mind wandering is dually determined by failure of executive resources (driven by personal characteristics) and current concerns (driven by experiences), and provide direction for practitioners addressing engagement at work.


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