Task Unrelated Thoughts – harmless daydreaming or maladaptive emotion regulation strategy?

Dr Monika Kornacka – Emotion Cognition Lab, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Katowice, Poland


2 lutego 2023

Task Unrelated Thoughts – harmless daydreaming or maladaptive emotion regulation strategy?

Task Unrelated Thoughts (TUT) are an overarching construct that encompasses a variety of phenomena that share functional and processual characteristics, e.g. day-dreaming, rumination, task-unrelated thought, (Seli et al., 2019). TUT can be defined as an engagement in mentation, that occurs unintentionally, and which is unrelated to one’s current activity and surroundings. Even though TUT is considered as a normal, everyday life, mental activity, some studies suggest that it might be related to negative affect, lower life satisfaction and represents a risk factor for psychological disorders (Bigelsen, et al. 2016; Marchetti, et al., 2014; Soffer-Dudek & Somer, 2018). An important question remains: why for some people TUT might be maladaptive taking a form of negative repetitive thinking and lead to increased risk of psychological disorders like depression (Marchetti, et al., 2017).

Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain the functional and dysfunctional consequences of TUT occurrence. On the one hand, the literature suggests that the main characteristic influencing the TUT outcome adaptive character are: personal significance, valence, level of construal (concreteness) and temporal orientation (Andrews-Hannah et al., 2014). On the other hand, individuals with good cognitive control limit their TUT when an external task is demanding and requires more cognitive resources regardless of TUT characteristics (Kane & McVay, 2012). Moreover, the literature suggests that STUT might have two main functions also affecting its maladaptive outcomes: planning or anticipating the future (Stawarczyk et al. 2011) and emotional avoidance (Giorgio et al., 2010).

In the current research project we are aiming to test how  (1) main TUT features, (2) executive resources and (3) avoidance function of TUT might affect participants wellbeing and emotion regulation creating a TUT model that integrates the theories presented in the literature.

During the presentation I will discuss the results of a series of experience sampling studies and present the methods of VR and eye-tracking studies planned in the present project.

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