Intrusive and wandering thoughts: How to stay focused at work


Speaker:Prof Cornelia Niessen, Institute of Psychology, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg
Date: Thursday 28 November 2019
Time: 14:30 - 15:30
Location: Streatham Court B

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Intrusive and wandering thoughts: How to stay focused at work

Cornelia Niessen, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg


At work, it is generally expected that workers are concentrated, fully aware, highly engaged and absorbed. However, today’s workplaces are often characterized by large amounts of digitalized information, multiple projects and tasks which makes it more likely to become distracted from the task at hand. Moreover, it is a universal aspect of the human experience that our mind is a wandering mind: Spontaneous, task-unrelated thoughts that can take up to 50% of an individual's daily thoughts. Research has shown that mind-wandering episodes are costly as they result in poorer performance, and negative affective states. Therefore, it is of interest to get insight into factors which support workers to stay focused at work. We investigated how the work context, but also individuals’ ability to suppress uninvited thoughts foster or hinder distraction from the task at hand. In the present talk, results of two experience sampling studies are presented which focus (a) on the role of leadership for mind-wandering, and (b) how challenging work demands (time pressure, task complexity), and ability factors activate workers’ self-control to stop these uninvited and distractive thoughts.