Influence of Automation on Mind Wandering Frequency in Sustained Attention

November 1, 2018
Arnaud Delorme, PhD

Gouraud, J., Delorme, A., Berberian, B. (2018) Influence of automation on mind wandering frequency in sustained attention. Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 66, November 2018, Pages 54-64.


There is accumulating evidence which shows that mind wandering may be increased within automated environments. This is particularly concerning when considering the negative effect of mind wandering on short-term performance. Seventeen participants performed an obstacle avoidance task under two conditions, manual and automated, each lasting 40 min. Subjects perceived the manual condition as more demanding than the automated one. We noted a significant increase of mind wandering frequency after only approximately 20 min under the automated condition. While learning and workload alone cannot explain these results, more automation-related phenomena, such as complacency or loss of agency, could play a role. Pupil diameter decreased during mind wandering compared to focus periods, revealing a decoupling from the task. The decrease remained stable in amplitude across different times and conditions. Research on mind wandering could be used to characterize an operator’s state of mind regarding issues related to system interactions.

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