The relationships of multidimensional schizotypy with mind wandering and metacognition

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


There has been a recent surge in mind wandering (MW) and metacognition research. During MW, one’s attention drifts away from immediate perceptual inputs to consider alternatives unrelated to the task at hand. Metacognition is an umbrella term for higher-order thought processes, and has several subtypes, including meta-awareness and metacognitive beliefs.MW research is often complemented by the meta-awareness dimension, which refers to one’s ability to notice their MW. One could mind wander with or without meta-awareness, which is also known as aware and unaware MW. Metacognitive beliefs are beliefs related to one’s thought processes and are often considered maladaptive. Despite the extensive literature on MW and metacognition, relatively less is known about these phenomena in the context of multidimensional schizotypy, which encompasses a cluster of traits similar to schizophrenia, but in a diminished form, and also represents the vulnerability for developing schizophrenia and related disorders. Multidimensional schizotypy consists of positive, negative, and disorganised dimensions, which represent the milder forms of positive, negative, and disorganised symptoms of schizophrenia. Thus, the overarching objective of this thesis was to examine MW, metacognitive beliefs, and meta-awareness of MW through the lens of multidimensional schizotypy in a non-clinical sample. Across three studies, first-year psychology students and members of the wider community of an Australian university were recruited. Utilising a newly developed Multidimensional Schizotypy Scale, Study 1 focused on MW (including its content) and multidimensional schizotypy (N = 65); Study 2 focused on metacognitive beliefs and multidimensional schizotypy (N = 68); and Study 3 integrated MW and metacognition by focusing on meta-awareness of MW (including its content) and its links with multidimensional schizotypy (N = 94). Results revealed significant correlations between multidimensional schizotypy and phenomenology of general MW and aware–unaware MW. A positive correlation was also observed between trait MW and disorganised schizotypy. On the contrary, no links were observed between multidimensional schizotypy and MW and aware–unaware MW frequency. Further, higher MW rates were observed on a low cognitively demanding task (Shape Expectations Task) compared to a high cognitively demanding task (Sustained Attention to Response Task). MW content was mostly a temporal, self-referential, non-specific, and neutrally valenced in nature, whereas aware and unaware MW episodes differed in intentionality. Similarly, in terms of the temporal orientation of aware MW, there was a preponderance of future-oriented thoughts. In the context of metacognitive beliefs, positive correlations were observed with multidimensional schizotypy. Overall, the data suggest that MW, metacognitive beliefs, and the meta-awareness of MW are linked with multidimensional schizotypy, which significantly contributes to the discipline and paves the way for future research. These findings are also relevant for researchers and clinicians focusing on cognition, metacognition, clinical/sub-clinical conditions, and treatment modalities for schizotypy and schizophrenia.
Date of Award29 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAhmed Moustafa (Supervisor) & Bruce Watt (Supervisor)

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