Reconsidering the mind-wandering reader: predictive processing, probability designs, and enculturation

Regina E. Fabry, Karin Kukkonen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Studies on mind-wandering frequently use reading as an experimental task. In these studies, reading is conceived as a cognitive process that potentially offers a contrast to mind-wandering, because it seems to be task-related, goal-directed and stimulus-dependent. More recent work attempts to avoid the dichotomy of successful cognitive processes and processes of mind-wandering found in earlier studies. We approach the issue from the perspective that texts provoke modes of cognitive involvement different from the information processing and recall account that underlies many early mind-wandering studies. After all, reading itself is an umbrella term for activities that are characterized by a variety of phenomenological and functional signatures. We conceptualize reading and mind-wandering in relation to each other through the framework of enculturated predictive processing, which is informed by research in literary studies. Earlier accounts think of reading predominantly in terms of the construction of situation models that organize textual information. By contrast, enculturated predictive processing foregrounds shifting stances readers can take in relation to the text. Characters featuring in literary texts might be mind-wandering themselves, or passages in literary style might make the construction of a clearly defined situational model impossible. Furthermore, we take into account that texts often elicit mind-wandering through the construction of task-relevant and attention-driven virtual scenarios in readers' minds. This more complex account of reading can enrich recent attempts to understand mind-wandering as a complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon. The study of mind-wandering can benefit, we argue, from a closer attention to the process of reading and to the texts it deploys as stimuli. The emerging perspective from enculturated predictive processing and literary studies makes distinctions in reading that in turn enable research on mind-wandering to ask more precise questions about (1) different kinds of mind-wandering, (2) different modes of reading, and (3) how and where they interconnect across time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2648
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • mind-wandering
  • reading
  • predictive processing
  • enculturated cognition
  • eye-tracking
  • literature


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