Young and restless: validation of the Mind-Wandering Questionnaire (MWQ) reveals disruptive impact of mind-wandering for youth
Frontiers Media SA -- Frontiers in Psychology
DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00560
  1. mind-wandering
  2. attention
  3. reading comprehension
  4. K-12 education
  5. well-being

Mind-wandering is the focus of extensive investigation, yet until recently there has been no validated scale to directly measure trait levels of task-unrelated thought. Scales commonly used to assess mind-wandering lack face validity, measuring related constructs such as daydreaming or behavioral errors. Here we report four studies validating a Mind-Wandering Questionnaire (MWQ) across college, high school, and middle school samples. The 5-item scale showed high internal consistency, as well as convergent validity with existing measures of mind-wandering and related constructs. Trait levels of mind-wandering, as measured by the MWQ, were correlated with task-unrelated thought measured by thought sampling during a test of reading comprehension. In both middle school and high school samples, mind-wandering during testing was associated with worse reading comprehension. By contrast, elevated trait levels of mind-wandering predicted worse mood, less life-satisfaction, greater stress, and lower self-esteem. By extending the use of thought sampling to measure mind-wandering among adolescents, our findings also validate the use of this methodology with younger populations. Both the MWQ and thought sampling indicate that mind-wandering is a pervasive—and problematic—influence on the performance and well-being of adolescents.