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date: 09 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers a form of attention-based meditation as a novel means to gain insight into the mechanisms and phenomenology of spontaneous thought. Focused attention (FA) meditation involves keeping one’s attention on a chosen object, and repeatedly catching the mind when it strays from the object into spontaneous thought. This practice can thus be viewed as a kind of self-caught mind-wandering paradigm, which suggests it may have great utility for research on spontaneous thought. Current findings about the effects of meditation on mind-wandering and meta-awareness are reviewed, and implications for new research paradigms that leverage first-person reporting during FA meditation are discussed. Specifically, research recommendations are made that may enable customized analysis of individual episodes of mind-wandering and their neural correlates. It is hoped that combining detailed subjective reports from experienced meditators with rigorous objective physiological measures will advance the understanding of human consciousness.

Keywords: meditation, mind-wandering, meta-awareness, spontaneous thought, focused attention

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