intro’d to William via a post on mind wandering, that starts with this sentence:
Once accused of being absent-minded, the founder of American Psychology, William James, quipped that he was really just present-minded to his own thoughts.
Most recent studies depict mind wandering as a costly cognitive failure with relatively few benefits (Mooneyham and Schooler, 2013). This perspective makes sense when mind wandering is observed by a third party and when costs are measured against externally imposed standards such as speed or accuracy of processing, reading fluency or comprehension, sustained attention, and other external metrics.
Daily life often demands that we choose one information stream or the other. For instance, in a decontextualized educational context, or in a cognitive psychology experiment, the ability to concentrate on a task requires silencing the inner chatter. Vice versa, when we would like to dip into our inner stream of consciousness, we must block out our external percepts (Dehaene and Changeux, 2005; Smallwood et al., 2011b; Kam et al., 2013).
However, as Kam et al. (2013) point out, when the executive attention network works in concert with the default mode network to sustain an inner train of thought, selective attention processes are not absent – they just are turned inward to select the most relevant associations and ideas that emerge from episodic memory. This has important implications, because traditional views of selective attention erroneously assume that the main function of the executive attention network is to select relevant stimuli from the external environment for deliberate, conscious processing.
However, these traditional models miss a key feature of human cognition: when working in cooperation with the default mode network, the executive attention network is equally equipped to select relevant episodic associations that can help keep an inner stream of thought both positive and constructive.
noteworthy/fitting too – that the article was from a fb post of Gever Tulley.
more on William:
William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist who was also trained as a physician. The first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States, James was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced, while others have labelled him the “Father of American psychology”.
Along with Charles Sanders Peirce and John Dewey, he is considered to be one of the greatest figures associated with the philosophical school known as pragmatism, and is also cited as one of the founders of the functional psychology. He also developed the philosophical perspective known as radical empiricism. James’ work has influenced intellectual giants such as Emile Durkheim, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty.
Born into a wealthy family, James was the son of the Swedenborgian theologian Henry James Sr and the brother of both the prominent novelist Henry James, and the diarist Alice James. James wrote widely on many topics, includingepistemology, education, metaphysics, psychology, religion, and mysticism. Among his most influential books are Principles of Psychology, which was a groundbreaking text in the field of psychology, Essays in Radical Empiricism, an important text in philosophy, and The Varieties of Religious Experience, which investigated different forms of religious experience.