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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Task Unrelated Thoughts (TUT) affecting mood in ecological settings: from adaptive mind-wandering to maladaptive rumination.


The literature suggests several hypotheses explaining adaptive vs. maladaptive character of task unrelated thoughts (TUT). However, it is still not clear what particular features can differentiate adaptive TUT from its maladaptive form. The main aim of the present study was to test the content and the context regulation hypothesis using daily sampling, that is to verify how TUT and task features are linked to momentary mood. 214 participants assessed their trait TUT through self-reported questionnaires and underwent a 7-day ecological momentary assessment of mood, TUT, and task characteristics measured 7 times by day. The results suggest that TUT particular features (i.e. lack of control, delay from the present moment, valence) are linked to both, lower mood valence and higher anxiety. Moreover control over the thoughts moderates the link between task characteristic (effort required by the task) and participants’ mood. Thus, from the clinical perspective, it seems more justified to take into account the particular TUT features instead of distinguishing specific TUT type (e.g. mind-wandering or rumination).

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