Coexistence of thought types as an attentional state during a sustained attention task

Kazushi Shinagawa, Yu Itagaki, Satoshi Umeda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some studies have asked participants about attentional state on a scale from on-task to off-task, which set the middle option as attention focused on both, including the possibility of the coexistence of thoughts. In addition, studies using multidimensional probes explicitly assumed coexistence within spontaneous thoughts and task-focus dimensions. Although several studies have assumed the coexistence of some thought dimensions, none has explored whether these are different types of thoughts (task-focus, mind-wandering, task-related, external stimuli-related). To examine whether this coexistence of thought types occurred, we used thought probes to determine the degree of immersion in each. The participants responded to probes presented at random during a sustained attention task. The results revealed a mixture of thought types in many self-reports. In addition, the state of attentional allocation behind self-reports was estimated using the hidden Markov model. We observed the following attentional states: task-focused, task-unrelated, task-related, external stimuli-focused, and task-focused—but also focused on other thoughts. These results suggest that individuals can simultaneously allocate attention to thought types and discriminate between reporting. In some cases, probe options should also be considered for this coexistence. We also examined the relationship between self-reports and behavioral indexes, and discussed the necessity of separately measuring the degree of immersion for each thought type.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1581
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Dec

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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