Meta-Awareness and Control of Internal Attention: a Simulated Thoughts Paradigm Investigation

Liad Ruimi, Iftach Amir, Yuval Hadash, Pavel Goldstein, Omer Dar, Amit Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Meta-awareness has been implicated in monitoring of and self-regulatory control over attentional processes implicated in internally directed cognition and mental health. Yet, research has focused on external sensory-perceptual attention. We therefore sought to quantify meta-awareness of difficulty disengaging internal attention from one’s own negative thoughts, and thereby examine its role in internal attentional (dys)control. Methods: In an unselected sample of 42 adult participants (M(SD)age = 24.46 (6.11) years old, rangeage 18–39; 74% female), we quantified trial-level difficulty disengaging internal attention from own-voice (simulated) thought stimuli as well as trial-level meta-awareness by integrating self-caught probes and signal detection within a digit categorization task. Results: We found, first, evidence for, and individual differences in, meta-awareness of internal attentional dyscontrol. Second, the greater the difficulty disengaging internal attention from a negative thought, the greater the likelihood for momentary meta-awareness. Finally, we found that meta-awareness of difficulty disengaging internal attention from a negative simulated thought (trial n) predicts reduced difficulty disengaging attention from one’s next negative thought (trial n + 1). Conclusions: Meta-awareness may serve a monitoring-for-control function with respect to internal attention, with potential translational implications for experimental cognitive training therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-18
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge Meital Davis, Yaara Iron, Chen Joseph, Shani Levi, and Tamar Osterman in supporting data collection of the reported data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Cognitive control
  • Internal attention
  • Meta-Awareness
  • Mindfulness
  • Repetitive negative thinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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