Mind wandering during conversations affects subjective but not objective outcomes

AbstractHow much do we mind wander during conversations, and how does that affect objective outcomes and subjective perceptions of the conversation? We studied computed-mediated dyadic negotiations during which participants (N = 144) discreetly reported whenever they were thinking about something else, and whenever they thought their partner was not attending. Participants mind wandered around 19% of the time. Surprisingly, the number of times that a participant thought that their counterpart was not attending correlated almost perfectly with the first participants’ own number of mind wandering reports (r-partial = .941), but very poorly with the other participants’ number of reports (r-partial = .004) (controlled for time until agreement). Mind wandering negatively affected subjective (F(1, 57) = 6.48, p = .014) but not objective (F(1, 57) = .089, p = .766) outcomes. These findings suggest that mind wandering, and the attribution of mind wandering to others, leads to worse social psychological outcomes.

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