Free-moving thoughts can have profound implications on how an individual interacts with the world, as well as their sense of self—sometimes maladaptively so. Previous research has suggested that mindfulness allows one to better detect the contents of the mind and thus prevent rumination on negative thoughts, but the association between mindfulness and free-moving thought dynamics is still unknown. In this study, we examined the relationship between trait mindfulness and free-moving thought dynamics.
One hundred and twenty-three participants between 18 and 50 years old (M = 19.59, SD = 3.34 years) completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and the free association semantic task (FAST), and rated the valence, arousal, and dominance of each generated word in the FAST. Zero–one inflated beta (ZOIB) regressions were used to analyze the relationship between trait mindfulness and thought transitions.
Several components of the FFMQ predicted affective qualities of participants’ free-moving thoughts. Act-awareness and non-judgment significantly predicted the likelihood of transitioning from a low to high affective valence. Act-awareness, observing, and describing were also significant predictors of transitioning from a high to low affective valence. Finally, act-awareness was a significant predictor of switching from a high to low arousal state, while observing was a significant predictor of switching from high to low dominance.
Our study revealed that the use of the FAST could identify nuances in dynamics of free-moving thoughts and is associated with dimensions of trait mindfulness. Moreover, the use of ZOIB regression modeling demonstrates its feasibility for use with data bounded by values between 0 and 1.
This study is not preregistered.