Quantifying the Stream of Consciousness: An Empirical Investigation into the Emergence and Dynamics of Thought Quentin Raffaelli , Nadia-Anais De Stefano; Sylvia Zarnescu; Rudolph Malusa; Rohith Boyilla; Zain Majeed; Ramsey Wilcox; Matthias Mehl; Mary-Frances O'Connor; Jessica Andrews-Hanna (University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ ) C12
Our thoughts are a pervasive aspect of our mental life. Previous research suggests that individual differences in thought content, as well as the context in which different thoughts occur, have predictive abilities with regards to personality and mental health. However, a facet of thought that has received little attention in research is the dynamics of thought. In this study, we aimed to capture the content and dynamics of thoughts using a stream of consciousness paradigm in which 94 adults voiced aloud their thoughts at rest in real time for 10 minutes in a quiet testing room. This content was recorded and subsequently transcribed for analysis. Afterwards, participants answered a short retrospective questionnaire pertaining to their phenomenological experience while voicing their thoughts aloud. Results indicated that participants? rated their spoken thoughts as similar to those they experience in their day to day life, lending real-world validity to the paradigm. Furthermore, we replicated some findings in the mind-wandering literature, including a prospective bias and content relationships with mental health traits. Secondary analyses explored different indices of dynamics, including associational and strong transitions between themes, and the extent to which themes were being explored. Analyses regarding how dynamics metrics relate to personality and mental health are currently underway. Overall, this study highlights the experimental utility of a stream of consciousness paradigm for quantifying how thought arises and unfold over time, with important variability across individuals.