Research Areas research areas


  • Caitlin Mills joined UNH in 2018 as an assistant professor of psychology. She earned a B.A. in psychology from Christian Brothers University (2010), followed by a masters (2014) and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame (2016). Dr. Mills then completed a two-year postdoc in the Psychology Department at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses mainly focuses on constructs related to mind wandering and engagement – their neural correlates, relationship to affect, and impact on learning. Dr. Mills’s interdisciplinary research program incorporates theoretical and methodological approaches from cognitive psychology, computer science, cognitive neuroscience and education. She is currently pursuing three main lines of research: 1) using educationally relevant paradigms to characterize when mind wandering occurs and how it influences learning; 2) building machine learning detectors that can predict and respond when someone goes off-task in real-time; and 3) conducting studies to uncover the dynamic brain network interactions that give rise to spontaneous thought. Other ongoing research interests include how emotions and other affective states impact comprehension in educational contexts, such as complex problem solving and reading.

    My research interests are at the intersection of cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and education. I am particularly interested in mind wandering: its neural correlates, relationship to affect, and impact on learning.Other interests include investigating affective states and task-unrelated thought in educational contexts, such as during complex learning and reading.
  • Selected Publications

    Academic Article

    Year Title
    2021 How task-unrelated and freely moving thought relate to affect: Evidence for dissociable patterns in everyday life.Emotion2021
    2021 Out of the blue: understanding abrupt and wayward transitions in thought using probability and predictive processing.Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.  376:20190692. 2021
    2020 Eye-Mind reader: an intelligent reading interface that promotes long-term comprehension by detecting and responding to mind wanderingHuman-Computer Interaction.  1-27. 2020
    2019 Beyond subjective judgments: Predicting evaluations of creative writing from computational linguistic featuresBehavior research methods.  1-16. 2019
    2019 Disengagement during lectures: Media multitasking and mind wandering in university classroomsComputers & Education2019
    2019 Being sad is not always bad: The influence of affect on expository text comprehensionDiscourse Processes.  99-116. 2019
    2018 Mind-wandering rates fluctuate across the day: evidence from an experience-sampling studyCognitive research: principles and implications.  3:54-54. 2018
    2018 Re-watching lectures as a study strategy and its effect on mind wandering.Experimental psychology2018
    2018 Mind-wandering as a scientific concept: cutting through the definitional hazeTrends in cognitive sciences.  22:957-959. 2018
    2018 Finding Consistency in Boredom by Appreciating its InstabilityTrends in cognitive sciences.  22:744-747. 2018
    2018 The knowns and unknowns of boredom: a review of the literatureExperimental Brain Research.  1-12. 2018
    2018 Affective neuroscience of self-generated thoughtAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences Annals of The Lyceum of Natural History of New York2018
    2018 The critical role of the Hippocampus in mind wanderingJournal of Neuroscience.  38:6439-6441. 2018
    2018 Instructor presence effect: Liking does not always lead to learningComputers & Education.  122:205-220. 2018
    2018 Heterogeneity within the frontoparietal control network and its relationship to the default and dorsal attention networksProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  201715766-201715766. 2018
    2018 How do we model learning at scale? A systematic review of research on MOOCsReview of Educational Research.  88:43-86. 2018
    2018 Is an off-task mind a freely-moving mind? Examining the relationship between different dimensions of thoughtConsciousness and Cognition.  58:20-33. 2018
    2017 An Evidence-Centered Design Approach to Mind Wandering 2017
    2017 Cognitive coupling during reading.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.  146:872-872. 2017
    2017 Interactions between the default network and dorsal attention network vary across default subsystems, time, and cognitive statesNeuroImage.  147:632-649. 2017
    2017 The effect of disfluency on mind wandering during text comprehensionPsychonomic bulletin & review.  24:914-919. 2017
    2016 Mind wandering during film comprehension: The role of prior knowledge and situational interestPsychonomic bulletin & review.  23:842-848. 2016
    2016 On the influence of re-reading on mind wanderingThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.  69:2338-2357. 2016
    2015 Influencing the occurrence of mind wandering while readingConsciousness and Cognition.  34:52-62. 2015
    2015 The influence of consequence value and text difficulty on affect, attention, and learning while reading instructional textsLearning and Instruction.  40:9-20. 2015
    2015 Toward a Real-Time (Day) Dreamcatcher: Sensor-Free Detection of Mind Wandering during Online Reading.International Educational Data Mining Society2015
    2014 Emotions while writing about emotional and non-emotional topicsMotivation and Emotion.  38:140-156. 2014
    2014 On the validity of the autobiographical emotional memory task for emotion inductionPLoS ONE.  9:e95837-e95837. 2014
    2014 The present study investigated how symptoms of mania—associated with heightened and persistent positive emotion—influence emotion experience and perception during distressing social interactions, whereby the experience of heightened positive emotion may not be socially adaptive. Specifically, mania symptoms were assessed via a validated self-report measure, and used to predict emotion experience and...Motivation and Emotion.  38:157-165. 2014
    2013 Inducing and tracking confusion with contradictions during complex learningInternational Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education.  22:85-105. 2013
    Electroencephalography and Brain Activity Measurement


    Year Title
    2018 Constructed Futures 2018
    2018 Why the mind wanders: How spontaneous thought’s default variability may support episodic efficiency and semantic optimization.  11-22. 2018

    Conference Paper

    Year Title
    2019 Where You Are, Not What You See: The Impact of Learning Environment on Mind Wandering and Material RetentionProceedings of the 9th International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge. 421-425. 2019
    2019 Are You Talking to Me? Multi-Dimensional Language Analysis of Explanations during ReadingProceedings of the 9th International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge. 116-120. 2019
    2018 Quantifying Classroom Instructor Dynamics with Computer VisionInternational Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education. 30-42. 2018
    2018 “Mind” TS: Testing a Brief Mindfulness Intervention with an Intelligent Tutoring SystemInternational Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education. 176-181. 2018
    2017 Neural Dynamics of Spontaneous Thought: An Electroencephalographic StudyInternational Conference on Augmented Cognition. 28-44. 2017
    2017 Out of the Fr-Eye-ing pan: towards gaze-based models of attention during learning with technology in the classroomProceedings of the 25th Conference on User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization. 94-103. 2017
    2017 Put your thinking cap on: detecting cognitive load using EEG during learningProceedings of the Seventh International Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference. 80-89. 2017
    2017 Zone out no more: Mitigating mind wandering during computerized reading.EDM. 2017
    2016 Investigating boredom and engagement during writing using multiple sources of information: the essay, the writer, and keystrokesProceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge. 114-123. 2016
    2016 The Effect of Text Difficulty on Intentional and Unintentional Mind-WanderingCANADIAN JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-REVUE CANADIENNE DE PSYCHOLOGIE EXPERIMENTALE. 397-397. 2016
    2016 The Eyes Have It: Gaze-based Detection of Mind Wandering during Learning with an Intelligent Tutoring System.EDM. 86-93. 2016
    2015 Automatic gaze-based detection of mind wandering during narrative film comprehensionInternational conference on multimodal interaction. 299-306. 2015
    2015 Mind wandering during learning with an intelligent tutoring systemInternational Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education. 267-276. 2015
    2014 To quit or not to quit: predicting future behavioral disengagement from reading patternsInternational Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems. 19-28. 2014
    2013 Emotions During Writing about Socially-Charged Issues: Effects of the (Mis) Alignment of Personal Positions with Instructed Positions.FLAIRS Conference. 2013
    2013 Sorry, I Must Have Zoned Out: Tracking Mind Wandering Episodes in an Interactive Learning EnvironmentInternational Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education. 896-899. 2013
    2013 What emotions do novices experience during their first computer programming learning session?International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education. 11-20. 2013
    2013 What makes learning fun? exploring the influence of choice and difficulty on mind wandering and engagement during learningInternational Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education. 71-80. 2013
    2012 Automatic evaluation of learner self-explanations and erroneous responses for dialogue-based ITSsInternational Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems. 541-550. 2012
    2012 Emotions during writing on topics that align or misalign with personal beliefsInternational Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems. 638-639. 2012
    2011 Does topic matter? Topic influences on linguistic and rubric-based evaluation of writingInternational Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education. 450-452. 2011

    Teaching Activities

  • AppsOfPsyc/Academic Experience Taught course 2021
  • Honors Senior Thesis Taught course 2021
  • Spc Top/Science of Daydreaming Taught course 2021
  • Statistics in Psychology Taught course 2021
  • Spc Top/Science of Daydreaming Taught course 2020
  • Statistics in Psychology Taught course 2020
  • Spc Top/Science of Daydreaming Taught course 2020
  • Adv Sem/Cognition Taught course 2019
  • Adv Top/Science of Daydreaming Taught course 2019
  • Senior Honors Tutorial Taught course 2019
  • Adv Top/Science of Daydream Taught course 2019
  • Adv Top/Science of Daydreaming Taught course 2018
  • Honors Senior Thesis Taught course 2018
  • Education And Training

  • B.S. Psychology, Christian Brothers University
  • M.A. Psychology, University of Notre Dame
  • Ph.D. Psychology, University of Notre Dame
  • Full Name

  • Caitlin Mills
  • Mailing Address

  • University of New Hampshire


    15 Academic Way

    Durham, NH  03824

    United States