‘Focused Daydreaming and Mind-Wandering’ (2015)

Review of Philosophy and Psychology, vol. 6, 2015, pp. 791-813.

Published Version | Final Draft | PhilPapers


In this paper, I describe and discuss two mental phenomena which are somewhat neglected in the philosophy of mind: focused daydreaming and mind-wandering. My aim is to show that their natures are rather distinct, despite the fact that we tend to classify both as instances of daydreaming. The first difference between the two, I argue, is that, while focused daydreaming is an instance of imaginative mental agency (i.e. mental agency with the purpose to voluntarily produce certain mental representations), mind-wandering is not – though this does not mean that mind-wandering cannot involve mental agency at all. This personal-level difference in agency and purposiveness has, furthermore, the consequence that instances of mind-wandering do not constitute unified and self-contained segments of the stream of consciousness – in stark contrast to focused daydreams. Besides, the two kinds of mental phenomena differ in whether they pos­sess a narrative structure, and in how we may make sense of the succession of mental episodes involved.