SC11 Cybernetic Models of Mind-Wandering and Meditation


In session 1, I will introduce the concept of computational modelling of cognition, and describe the main empirical studies of mind-wandering. In session 2, I will describe what mindfulness is, and some empirical data regarding the effects of mindfulness on cognition and on the brain. We will also practise some mindfulness ourselves. In session 3, I will draw the connection between mind-wandering and mindfulness, and describe how we have used the same computational modelling framework for these two mental tasks. In session 4, I will be available to answer all your questions and discuss any remaining material.


The aim of this course is to provide you with a basic background into the phenomenology of mind-wandering and meditation. In addition, you will be able to describe the cognitive processes thought to be involved in both mind-wandering and meditation. Finally, you will have a conceptual understanding of how mind-wandering and meditation can be formalized in computational models of cognition.


• MK van Vugt, NA Taatgen, J Sackur, M Bastian, J Borst, K Mehlhorn. “Modeling mind-wandering: a tool to better understand distraction.” Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Cognitive Modeling, (2015): 252-257
• Smallwood, Jonathan, and Jonathan W. Schooler. "The science of mind wandering: empirically navigating the stream of consciousness." Annual review of psychology 66 (2015): 487-518.

Course location


Course requirements


Instructor information.

Marieke van Vugt


University of Groningen


Dr. van Vugt is an assistant professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, working in the department of artificial intelligence. She obtained her PhD in model-based neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania, then worked as a postdoc at Princeton University before moving to the University of Groningen. In her lab, she focuses on understanding the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying decision making, mind-wandering and meditation by means of EEG, behavioural studies and computational modeling. In some slightly outside-the-box research, she also records the brain waves of Tibetan monks and dancers.