Although mind-wandering occupies up to half of our waking thoughts, it is seldom discussed in philosophy. My paper brings these neglected thoughts into focus. I propose that mind-wandering is unguided attention. Guidance in my sense concerns how attention is monitored and regulated as it unfolds over time. Roughly speaking, someone’s attention is guided if she would feel pulled back, were she distracted from her current focus. Because our wandering thoughts drift unchecked from topic to topic, they are unguided. One motivation (...) for my theory is what I call the “Puzzle of the Purposeful Wanderer”. On the one hand, mind-wandering seems essentially purposeless; almost by definition, it contrasts with goal-directed cognition. On the other hand, empirical evidence suggests that our minds frequently wander to our goals. My solution to the puzzle is this: mind-wandering is purposeless in one way—it is unguided—but purposeful in another—it is frequently caused, and thus motivated, by our goals. Another motivation for my theory is to distinguish mind-wandering from two antithetical forms of cognition: absorption and rumination. Surprisingly, previous theories cannot capture these distinctions. I can: on my view, absorption and rumination are guided, whereas mind-wandering is not. My paper has four parts. Section 1 spells out the puzzle. Sections 2 and 3 explicate two extant views of mind-wandering—the first held by most cognitive scientists, the second by Thomas Metzinger. Section 4 uses the limitations of these theories to motivate my own: mind-wandering is unguided attention. (shrink)
Perhaps the central question in action theory is this: what ingredient of bodily action is missing in mere behavior? But what is an analogous question for mental action? I ask this: what ingredient of active, goal-directed thought is missing in mind-wandering? My answer: attentional guidance. Attention is guided when you would feel pulled back from distractions. In contrast, mind-wandering drifts between topics unchecked. My unique starting point motivates new accounts of four central topics about mental action. First, its causal basis. (...) Mind-wandering is a case study that allows us to tease apart two causes of mental action––guidance and motivation. Second, its experiential character. Goals are rarely the objects of awareness; rather, goals are “phenomenological frames” that carve experience into felt distractions and relevant information. Third, its scope. Intentional mind-wandering is a limit case of action where one actively cultivates passivity. Fourth, my theory offers a novel response to mental action skeptics like Strawson. (shrink)
Philosophers, psychologists, and economists have reached the consensus that one can use two different kinds of regulation to achieve self-control. Synchronic regulation uses willpower to resist current temptation. Diachronic regulation implements a plan to avoid future temptation. Yet this consensus may rest on contaminated intuitions. Specifically, agents typically use willpower (synchronic regulation) to achieve their plans to avoid temptation (diachronic regulation). So even if cases of diachronic regulation seem to involve self-control, this may be because they are contaminated by synchronic (...) regulation. We therefore developed a novel multifactorial method to disentangle synchronic and diachronic regulation. Using this method, we find that ordinary usage assumes that only synchronic––not diachronic––regulation counts as self-control. We find this pattern across four experiments involving different kinds of temptation, as well as a paradigmatic case of diachronic regulation based on the classic story of Odysseus and the Sirens. Our final experiment finds that self-control in a diachronic case depends on whether the agent uses synchronic regulation at two moments: when she (1) initiates and (2) follows-through on a plan to resist temptation. Taken together, our results strongly suggest that synchronic regulation is the sole difference maker in the folk concept of self-control. (shrink)
Philosophers have long been fascinated by the stream of consciousness––thoughts, images, and bits of inner speech that dance across the inner stage. Yet for centuries, such “mind-wandering” was deemed private and thus resistant to empirical investigation. Recent developments in psychology and neuroscience have reinvigorated scientific interest in the stream of thought, leading some researchers to dub this “the era of the wandering mind”. Despite this flurry of progress, scientists have stressed that mind-wandering research requires firmer philosophical foundations. The time is (...) therefore ripe for the philosophy of mind-wandering. Our review begins with a foundational question: what is mind-wandering? We then investigate the significance of mind-wandering for general philosophical topics, namely mental action, introspection, and the norms of thinking and attention. (shrink)
Can we be responsible for our attention? Can attention be epistemically good or bad? Siegel tackles these under‐explored questions in “Selection Effects”, a pathbreaking chapter of The Rationality of Perception. In this chapter, Siegel develops one of the first philosophical accounts of attention norms. Her account is inferential: patterns of attention are often controlled by inferences and therefore subject to rational epistemic norms that govern any other form of inference. Although Siegel’s account is explanatorily powerful, it cannot capture a core (...) attention norm in cognitive science: one should balance between exploratory and exploitative attention. For central cases of exploratory attention such as mind‐wandering, child‐like, and creative thinking are non‐inferential. Siegel’s view classifies them as “normative freebies” that are not subject to epistemic evaluation. We’re therefore left with a disjunctive conclusion: either Siegel’s inferentialist theory of attention norms is incomplete or cognitive scientists are wrong about the norms that govern attention. (shrink)
Judgments of blame for others are typically sensitive to what an agent knows and desires. However, when people act negligently, they do not know what they are doing and do not desire the outcomes of their negligence. How, then, do people attribute blame for negligent wrongdoing? We propose that people attribute blame for negligent wrongdoing based on perceived mental control, or the degree to which an agent guides their thoughts and attention over time. To acquire information about others’ mental control, (...) people self-project their own perceived mental control to anchor third-personal judgments about mental control and concomitant responsibility for negligent wrongdoing. In four experiments (N = 841), we tested whether perceptions of mental control drive third-personal judgments of blame for negligent wrongdoing. Study 1 showed that the ease with which people can counterfactually imagine an individual being non-negligent mediated the relationship between judgments of control and blame. Studies 2a and 2b indicated that perceived mental control has a strong effect on judgments of blame for negligent wrongdoing and that first-personal judgments of mental control are moderately correlated with third-personal judgments of blame for negligent wrongdoing. Finally, we used an autobiographical memory manipulation in Study 3 to make personal episodes of forgetfulness salient. Participants for whom past personal episodes of forgetfulness were made salient judged negligent wrongdoers less harshly compared to a control group for whom past episodes of negligence were not salient. Collectively, these findings suggest that first-personal judgments of mental control drive third-personal judgments of blame for negligent wrongdoing and indicate a novel role for counterfactual thinking in the attribution of responsibility. (shrink)
Attribution theorists assume that character information informs judgments of blame. But there is disagreement over why. One camp holds that character information is a fundamental determinant of blame. Another camp holds that character information merely provides evidence about the mental states and processes that determine responsibility. We argue for a two-channel view, where character simultaneously has fundamental and evidential effects on blame. In two large factorial studies (n = 495), participants rate whether someone is blameworthy when he makes a mistake (...) (burns a cake or misses a bus stop). Although mental state inferences predict blame judgments, character information does not. Using mediation analyses, we find that character information influences responsibility via two channels (Studies 3–4; n = 447), which are sensitive to different kinds of information (Study 5; n = 149). On the one hand, forgetfulness increases judgments of responsibility, because mental lapses manifest an objectionable character flaw. On the other hand, forgetfulness decreases judgments of state control, which in turn decreases responsibility judgments. These two channels cancel out, which is why we find no aggregate effect of forgetfulness on responsibility. Our results challenge several fundamental assumptions about the role of character information in moral judgment, including that good character typically mitigates blame. (shrink)
Although mind‐wandering research is rapidly progressing, stark disagreements are emerging about what the term “mind‐wandering” means. Four prominent views define mind‐wandering as task‐unrelated thought, stimulus‐independent thought, unintentional thought, or dynamically unguided thought. Although theorists claim to capture the ordinary understanding of mind‐wandering, no systematic studies have assessed these claims. Two large factorial studies present participants with vignettes that describe someone’s thoughts and ask whether her mind was wandering, while systematically manipulating features relevant to the four major accounts of mind‐wandering. Dynamics (...) explains between four and 40 times more variance in participants’ mind‐wandering judgments than other features. Our third study tests and supports a unique prediction of the dynamic framework—obsessive rumination contrasts with mind‐wandering. Our final study used vignettes that resemble mind‐wandering experiments. Dynamics had significant and large effects, while task‐unrelatedness was nonsignificant. These results strongly suggest that the central feature of mind‐wandering is its dynamics. (shrink)
The science of mind wandering has rapidly expanded over the past 20 years. During this boom, mind wandering researchers have relied on self-report methods, where participants rate whether their minds were wandering. This is not an historical quirk. Rather, we argue that self-report is indispensable for researchers who study passive phenomena like mind wandering. We consider purportedly “objective” methods that measure mind wandering with eye tracking and machine learning. These measures are validated in terms of how well they predict self-reports, (...) which means that purportedly objective measures of mind wandering retain a subjective core. Mind wandering science cannot break from the cycle of self-report. Skeptics about self-report might conclude that mind wandering science has methodological foundations of sand. We take a rather more optimistic view. We present empirical and philosophical reasons to be confident in self-reports about mind wandering. Empirically, these self-reports are remarkably consistent in their contents and behavioral and neural correlates. Philosophically, self-reports are consistent with our best theories about the function of mind wandering. We argue that this triangulation gives us reason to trust both theory and method. (shrink)
Perhaps the central question in action theory is this: what ingredient of bodily action is missing in mere behaviour? But what is an analogous question for mental action? I ask the following: what ingredient of active, goal-directed, thought is missing in mind-wandering? I answer that guidance is the missing ingredient that separates mind-wandering and directed thinking. I define mind-wandering as unguided attention. Roughly speaking, attention is guided when you would feel pulled back, were you distracted. In contrast, a wandering attention (...) drifts from topic to topic unchecked. From my discussion of mind-wandering, I extract general lessons about the causal basis, experiential character, and limits of mental action. Mind-wandering is a case study that allows us to tease apart two causal bases of mental action––guidance and motivation––that often track together and are thus easy to conflate. The contrast between mind-wandering and active thinking also sheds light on how goals are experienced during mental action. Goals are rarely the objects of awareness; rather, goals are “phenomenological frames” that carve experience into felt distractions (which we are guided away from) and relevant information (which we are guided towards). Finally, I account for a limit-case of mental action that psychologists call “intentional mind-wandering”. (shrink)
In practice, scientists must convey data in a “representational style”. Various authors seek to explain the epistemic role of scientific visual representation in terms of formal conventions. Goodman also tends to dismiss the epistemic relevance of human cognition. My position is that visual conventions are nonarbitrary, in that they play to scientists’ cognitive abilities and limitations. My account draws on Perini's formal analysis, scientific case studies, and empirical literature on global pattern detection in neurotypicals, autistics, and dyslexics.
Although mind-wandering research is rapidly progressing, stark disagreements are emerging about what the term “mind-wandering” means. Four prominent views define mind-wandering as 1) task-unrelated thought, 2) stimulus-independent thought, 3) unintentional thought, or 4) dynamically unguided thought. Although theorists claim to capture the ordinary understanding of mind-wandering, no systematic studies have assessed these claims. Two large factorial studies present participants (n=545) with vignettes that describe someone’s thoughts and ask whether her mind was wandering, while systematically manipulating features relevant to the four (...) major accounts of mind-wandering. Dynamics explains between four and twenty times more variance in participants’ mind-wandering judgments than other features. Our third study (n=153) tests and supports a unique prediction of the dynamic framework—obsessive rumination contrasts with mind-wandering. Our final study (n=277) used vignettes that resemble mind-wandering experiments. Dynamics had significant and large effects, while task-unrelatedness was insignificant. These results strongly align with the dynamic conception of mind-wandering. (shrink)
We present a family of counter-examples to David Christensen's Independence Criterion, which is central to the epistemology of disagreement. Roughly, independence requires that, when you assess whether to revise your credence in P upon discovering that someone disagrees with you, you shouldn't rely on the reasoning that lead you to your initial credence in P. To do so would beg the question against your interlocutor. Our counter-examples involve questions where, in the course of your reasoning, you almost fall for an (...) easy-to-miss trick. We argue that you can use the step in your reasoning where you caught the trick as evidence that someone of your general competence level likely fell for it. Our cases show that it's permissible to use your reasoning about disputed matters to disregard an interlocutor's disagreement, so long as that reasoning is embedded in the right sort of explanation of why she finds the disputed conclusion plausible, even though it's false. (shrink)
This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, ZacharyIrving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This portion of the report explores the question: What can Indian philosophy tell us about how we perceive the world?
This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, ZacharyIrving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This portion of the report explores the question: Can meditation give us moral knowledge?
This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, ZacharyIrving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This portion of the report explores the question: How can we train our attention, and what are the benefits of doing so?
This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, ZacharyIrving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This part of the report explores the question: How does the understanding of attention in Indian philosophy bear on contemporary western debates?
This report highlights and explores five questions that arose from the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, September 21st to 22nd, 2013: 1. How does the understanding of attention in Indian philosophy bear on contemporary western debates? 2. How can we train our attention, and what are the benefits of doing so? 3. Can meditation give us moral knowledge? 4. What can Indian philosophy tell us about how we perceive the world? 5. Are there cross-cultural (...) philosophical themes? (shrink)
Our paper serves as an introduction to a budding field: the philosophy of mind-wandering. We begin with a philosophical critique of the standard psychological definitions of mind-wandering as task-unrelated or stimulus-independent. Although these definitions have helped bring mind-wandering research onto centre stage in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, they have substantial limitations that researchers must overcome to move forward. Specifically, the standard definitions do not account for (i) the dynamics of mind wandering, (ii) task-unrelated thought that does not qualify as mind-wandering, (...) and (iii) the ways that mind-wandering can be task-related. We then survey three philosophical accounts that improve upon the current psychological definitions. We first present our account of mind-wandering as “unguided thinking”. Next we review Thomas Metzinger’s view that mind-wandering can be defined as thought lacking meta-awareness and cognitive agency, as well as Peter Carruthers’s and Fabian Dorsch’s definitions of mind-wandering as disunified thinking. We argue that these latter views are inadequate, and we show that our definition of mind-wandering as unguided thinking is not only conceptually and phenomenologically precise but also can be operationalized in a principled way for empirical research. (shrink)
An often-overlooked characteristic of the human mind is its propensity to wander. Despite growing interest in the science of mind-wandering, most studies operationalize mind-wandering by its task-unrelated contents. But these contents may be orthogonal to the processes that determine how thoughts unfold over time, remaining stable or wandering from one topic to another. In this chapter, we emphasize the importance of incorporating such processes into current definitions of mind-wandering, and propose that mind-wandering and other forms of spontaneous thought (such as (...) dreaming and creativity) are mental states that arise and transition relatively freely due to an absence of constraints on cognition. We review existing psychological, philosophical and neuroscientific research on spontaneous thought through the lens of this framework, and call for additional research into the dynamic properties of the mind and brain. (shrink)
Most research on mind-wandering has characterized it as a mental state with contents that are task unrelated or stimulus independent. However, the dynamics of mind-wandering—how mental states change over time—have remained largely neglected. Here, we introduce a dynamic framework for understanding mind-wandering and its relationship to the recruitment of large-scale brain networks. We propose that mind-wandering is best understood as a member of a family of spontaneous-thought phenomena that also includes creative thought and dreaming. This dynamic framework can shed new (...) light on mental disorders that are marked by alterations in spontaneous thought, including depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (shrink)
This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, ZacharyIrving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This portion of the report explores the question: Are there cross-cultural philosophical themes?
One of the most important recent developments in the discussion of Kierkegaard's ethics is an interpretation defended, in different forms, by Philip Quinn and Stephen Evans. Both argue that a divine-command theory of moral obligation is to be found in Works of Love . Against this view, I argue that, despite significant overlap between DCT and the view of moral obligation found in Works of Love , there is at least one essential difference between the two: the former, but not (...) the latter, is committed to the claim that, necessarily, p is morally obligatory only if God commands that p. (shrink)
Chad Flanders has argued that retributivism is inconsistent with John Rawls’s core notion of public reason, which sets out those considerations on which legitimate exercises of state power can be based. Flanders asserts that retributivism is grounded in claims about which people can reasonably disagree and are thus not suitable grounds for public policy. This essay contends that Rawls’s notion of public reason does not provide a basis for rejecting retributivist justifications of punishment. I argue that Flanders’s interpretation of public (...) reason is too exclusionary: on it, public reason would rule out any prominent rationale for punishment. On what I contend is a better interpretation of public reason, whether retributivism would be ruled out as a rationale for punishment depends on whether a retributivist account can be constructed from shared political commitments in a liberal democracy. Some prominent versions of retributivism meet this requirement and so are consistent with public reason. (shrink)
The year 1897 saw the publication of the first of the modern logical paradoxes. It was published by Cesare Burali-Forti, the Italian mathematician whose name it has come to bear. Burali-Forti's own formulation of the paradox was not altogether satisfactory, as he had confused well-ordered sets as defined by Cantor with what he himself called “perfectly ordered sets”. However, he soon realized his mistake, and published a note admitting the error and making the correction. He concluded the note with the (...) observation that his result could be established on the basis of the correct definition of well-ordered set as easily as for the “perfectly ordered sets” for which it had first been obtained. We shall reproduce his results in their corrected form. (shrink)
For decades, scholars in the social sciences and humanities have questioned the appropriateness and utility of prior review of their research by human subjects' ethics committees. This essay seeks to organize thematically some of their published complaints and to serve as a brief restatement of the major critiques of ethics review. In particular, it argues that 1) ethics committees impose silly restrictions, 2) ethics review is a solution in search of a problem, 3) ethics committees lack expertise, 4) ethics committees (...) apply inappropriate principles, 5) ethics review harms the innocent, and 6) better options exist. (shrink)
Although scientists dating back to Darwin have noted the importance of the body in communicating emotion, current research on emotion communication tends to emphasize the face. In this article we review the evidence for bodily expressions of emotions—that is, the handful of emotions that are displayed and recognized from certain bodily behaviors. We also review the previously developed coding systems available for identifying emotions from bodily behaviors. Although no extant coding system provides an exhaustive list of bodily behaviors known to (...) communicate a panoply of emotions, our review provides the foundation for developing such a system. (shrink)
There are obvious benefits to be gained from the study of logic: heightened ability to express ideas clearly and concisely, increased skill in defining one's terms, enlarged capacity to formulate arguments rigorously and to analyze them critically. But the greatest benefit, in my judgment, is the recognition that reason can be applied in every aspect of human affairs.
... Press for their editorial perspicacity, to the National Institutes of Health for the partial financial support they gave me while I was writing some of the chapters, and to Donald Michie for suggesting the title Good Thinking.
The notion of an extended simple region (henceforth ESR) has recently been marshalled in the service of arguments for a variety of conclusions. Exactly how to understand the idea of extendedness as it applies to simple regions, however, has been largely ignored, or, perhaps better, assumed. In this paper we first (§1) outline what we take to be the standard way that philosophers are thinking about extendedness, namely as an intrinsic property of regions. We then introduce an alternative picture (§2), (...) according to which extendedness is extrinsic. In §3 we argue that it matters which way of thinking about extendedness is the right one, since how ESRs behave is sensitive to what extendedness consists in, and various arguments that appeal to ESRs turn out to be unsound if extendedness is extrinsic rather than intrinsic. (shrink)
This study tested four theoretical models of leadership with data from the ethnographic record. The first was a game-theoretical model of leadership in collective actions, in which followers prefer and reward a leader who monitors and sanctions free-riders as group size increases. The second was the dominance model, in which dominant leaders threaten followers with physical or social harm. The third, the prestige model, suggests leaders with valued skills and expertise are chosen by followers who strive to emulate them. The (...) fourth proposes that in small-scale, kin-based societies, men with high neural capital are best able to achieve and maintain positions of social influence and thereby often become polygynous and have more offspring than other men, which positively selects for greater neural capital. Using multiple search strategies we identified more than 1000 texts relevant to leadership in the Probability Sample of 60 cultures from the Human Relations Area Files. We operationalized the model with variables and then coded all retrieved text records on the presence or absence of evidence for each of these 24 variables. We found mixed support for the collective action model, broad support for components of the prestige leadership style and the importance of neural capital and polygyny among leaders, but more limited support for the dominance leadership style. We found little evidence, however, of emulation of, or prestige-biased learning toward, leaders. We found that improving collective actions, having expertise, providing counsel, and being respected, having high neural capital, and being polygynous are common properties of leaders, which warrants a synthesis of the collective action, prestige, and neural capital and reproductive skew models. We sketch one such synthesis involving high-quality decision-making and other computational services. (shrink)
A semantic theory aims to make predictions that are accurate and comprehensive. Sometimes, though, a semantic theory falls short of this aim, and there is a mismatch between prediction and data. In such cases, defenders of the semantic theory often attempt to rescue it by appealing to Gricean pragmatics. The hope is that we can rescue the theory as long as we can use pragmatics to explain away its predictive failures. This pragmatic rescue strategy is one of the most popular (...) moves in philosophy of language, philosophical logic, and formal semantics. In this paper I argue that this strategy fails whenever the predictive failures at issue can be recast in epistemological or metaphysical terms. This general “reformulation argument” undermines a wide variety of pragmatic rescue attempts. (shrink)