It is unreasonable to expect students to continuously pay attention while listening to a lecture, reading a textbook, or studying for a test. The mind naturally wanders, shifting attention from the primary learning task at hand to internal, personally relevant thoughts. Many of the activities that take place in schools and colleges require that students attend to the classroom environment for a sustained period. In many of these environments, it is common to catch our minds wandering and to notice that instead of paying attention to lectures, seminar or experiment for undergraduate projects and other learning activities our awareness will be directed elsewhere.
Mind-wandering is one of the most ubiquitous of all mental activities. Estimates suggest that the tendency for the mind to stray from the here and now in favor of thoughts unrelated to current external events constitutes as much as 50% of our waking hours. Notably, these incessant mental meanderings come at quite a cost, significantly disrupting performance on a great range of activities ranging from the banal to the most demanding. This is because most of our activities occur in interaction with the external environment, and mind-wandering is characterized specifically by a decoupling of attention from an immediate task context toward unrelated concerns.
This experience of having our thoughts wander from a task we are engaged in to our internal thoughts or feelings is a universally experienced phenomenon commonly referred to as mind wandering. Mind-wandering is a common everyday experience in which attention becomes disengaged from the immediate external environment and focused on internal trains of thought.
Mind-wandering is the experience of thoughts not remaining on a single topic for a long period of time, particularly when people are engaged in an attention-demanding task. Mind-wandering tends to occur when one is driving.
Mind wandering is also a condition in which thoughts do not remain focused on the task at hand but range widely and spontaneously across other topics. It tends to occur during tasks that do not require sustained attention. Mind wandering cannot be scientifically quantified but has been studied using thought sampling and questionnaires.
Mind wandering without noticing it is a quintessential example of temporal dissociation meta-awareness. The pervasive phenomenon of mind wandering occurs when attention is decoupled from the task an individual intended it be directed toward. In many situations, mind wandering may be quite adaptive or at least, harmless. For example, when one is walking to work, it may be helpful to think about what one needs to do that day, rather than devoting all attention to the non-demanding task of walking down the sidewalk.
The fact that individuals mind wander even when engaged in tasks that they recognize as being undermined by mind wandering illustrates how easy it is to temporarily lose track of what is going on in one's mind, that is, to have a temporal dissociation of meta-awareness.
CAUSES OF MIND WANDERING
The causes of mind wandering especially when reading are lack of concentration, distraction of any kind, thoughts that are contrary to what you are reading etc.
MIND WANDERING AND READING COMPREHENSION
Reading comprehension is a task that involves both externally-directed attentions in reading the words on the page as well as a good deal of internally-directed attention to the mental representation of the text being constructed. Comprehension of an expository text is a common learning task and involves coherence building processes that manipulate mental representations of meaning in order to construct inferences and elaborations that connect the text with prior knowledge. The overlap between mind wandering regions and discourse comprehension regions indicates that mind wandering and comprehension likely share many of the same cognitive processes. This overlap in processes may also indicate why mind wandering is so detrimental to comprehension.
Difficult texts have more discontinuities in cohesion, which may make it more challenging to maintain sustained control and attention on the comprehension activities. In line with this idea, we expected that mind wandering would occur when a reader had difficulty constructing a situation model of the text because of a failure of executive processing, be it due to control or insufficient executive resources. Furthermore, mind wandering may disrupt comprehension as a result of the reader’s inability to construct a well-formulated situational model of the text.
HOW TO AVOID IT
A) SEEK COUNSELING SERVICES
One of the ways to avoid mind wandering as an undergraduate especially during reading is to first of all seek counseling services. It is advised that you seek professional counseling services. Discuss your issue with the counselor and other reasons why your mind wanders. The counselor will be in a best position to help you as well as help you with tips on how best to avoid mind wandering especially when you are reading or in class for lectures.
B) TRY TO CONCENTRATE
Another way to avoid mind wandering as an undergraduate is to try as much as possible to concentrate especially when reading and listening to lecture. Concentration is not just about looking at your text books or lecture notes while studying or even looking at the lecturer during lectures. There is more to concentration than just mopping at whatever activity you are involve in at the moment. Concentration therefore, entails been committed physically, mentally, psychologically and otherwise. The more you concentrate the likelihood of avoiding mind wandering.
C) AVOID DISTRACTION
Another way to avoid mind wandering is to avoid distraction. As an undergraduate, you must try by all means to avoid any kind of distraction. Make sure your mind and attention is on what you are doing at all times. Learn to pay more attention to whatever activity you are doing even if it means changing your environment.
D) CLEAR YOUR MIND BEFORE READING
It is also important that you clear your mind before reading. Clear your mind of any sort of worry or thought that is contrary to what you are reading that way you will avoid your mind wandering.
Conclusively, it is expected that at some point when reading the mind is likely to wander away but the important thing is that you should be mindful not to allow it wander that it distracts you or make you lose focus. Try at all times to avoid mind wandering especially when reading.