The stream of thought can flow freely, without much guidance from attention or cognitive control. What determines what we think about from one moment to the next? Spontaneous thought shares many commonalities with memory processes. We use insights from computational models of memory to explain how the stream of thought flows through the landscape of memory. In this framework of spontaneous thought, semantic memory scaffolds episodic memory to form the content of thought, and drifting context modulated by one's current state – both internal and external – constrains the area of memory to explore. This conceptualization of spontaneous thought can help to answer outstanding questions such as: what is the function of spontaneous thought, and how does the mind select what to think about?
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- computational model
- default network
- mind wandering
- spontaneous thought