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date: 12 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Agents invariably face trade-offs between exploration, which increases informational stores and potentially opens up new opportunities, and exploitation, which utilizes existing informational stores to take advantage of known opportunities. This exploration/exploitation trade-off has been extensively studied in computer science and has been productively applied to multiple cognitive domains. In this chapter, this framework is extended to the ubiquitous alternation between two modes of serial thought: mind-wandering and goal-directed thought. The exploration/exploitation framework provides a new perspective on the functionality of mind-wandering and its pattern of regular switching with goal-directed thought. It also raises new hypotheses about the regulation of mind-wandering across time and differences in the propensity to mind-wander across individuals.

Keywords: mind-wandering, goal-directed thought, serial thought, exploration, exploitation

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