Conference Proceeding

Predictors of Mind-Wandering While Driving

  • Heather E K Rodd (Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada)
  • Paul M Trick (Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada)


Mind-wandering occurs when individuals experience task-unrelatedthoughts, which can interfere with their performance. The goal of this study was to investigate mind-wandering while driving, as predicted both by time on task, and by individual differences in executive working memory, as measured by the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART). Participants completed a total of three drives during their hour in the driving simulator. During these drives, participants were periodically asked whether they were thinking of driving; the proportion of trials where they reported they were not thinking of driving was used as an index of mind-wandering. As a secondary index, at the end of each drive, participants also rated how difficult they felt it was to focus during the drive. Driving speed, steering variability, and self-report driving performance were also recorded. As predicted, self-reports indicated that drivers had increased difficulty focusing their attention with time on task, particularly in the last two drives; however, the increase in off-task thoughts per drive did not reach significance. Similarly, although driving speed increased as a function of time-on-task, and SART scores predicted driving speed, the interaction between SART scores and time-on-task did not have the predicted effect on steering variability. Overall, the best predictors of mind-wandering were fatigue and number of hours of sleep the previous night. Lastly, those who reported more mind-wandering also reported more instances of emotional rumination (e.g., worries, feeling guilty).

How to Cite:

Rodd, H. & Trick, P., (2017) “Predictors of Mind-Wandering While Driving”, Driving Assessment Conference 9(2017), 326-332. doi:

Rights: Copyright © 2017 the author(s)

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Published on
29 Jun 2017
Peer Reviewed