Zone Out No More: Mitigating Mind Wandering During Computerized Reading

Sidney K. D'Mello, Caitlin Mills, Robert Bixler, Nigel Bosch

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Mind wandering, defined as shifts in attention from task-related processing to task-unrelated thoughts, is a ubiquitous phenomenon that has a negative influence on performance and productivity in many contexts, including learning. We propose that next-generation learning technologies should have some mechanism to detect and respond to mind wandering in real-time. Towards this end, we developed a technology that automatically detects mind wandering from eye-gaze during learning from instructional texts. When mind wandering is detected, the technology intervenes by posing just-in-time questions and encouraging re-reading as needed. After multiple rounds of iterative refinement, we summatively compared the technology to a yoked-control in an experimentwith104 participants. The key dependent variable was performance on a post-reading comprehension assessment. Our results suggest that the technology was successful in correcting comprehension deficits attributed to mind wandering (d = .47 sigma) under specific conditions, thereby highlighting the potential to improve learning by “attending to attention.”
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event2017 International Conference on Educational Data Mining - Wuhan, China
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017
Conference number: 10


Conference2017 International Conference on Educational Data Mining
Abbreviated titleEDM 2017


  • mind wandering
  • gaze tracking
  • student modeling
  • attention-aware


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