To have an experience is not necessarily to know that one is having it. Situations such as suddenly realizing that one has not been listening to one’s spouse (despite nodding attentively) or catching oneself shouting “I’m not angry”, illustrate that we sometimes fail to notice what is going on in our own head. One of the overarching themes of the lab is the distinction between having an experience (experiential consciousness) and knowing that you are having an experience (meta-awareness) (Schooler, 2002; Chin & Schooler, 2009, Schooler et al, 2011; Winkielman and Schooler, 2009, 2011). This distinction has provided considerable intellectual leverage for thinking about a host of phenomena. For example, it explains why it is that people mind-wander while reading despite knowing that it is not possible to simultaneously carry on two independent trains of thought. Accordingly, people frequently lack meta-awareness of the fact that they are mind wandering while reading and therefore fail to stop (Schooler et al, 2011). It also explains why various manipulations such as alcohol (Sayette, Reichle, & Schooler, 2009) and craving (Sayette, Schooler, & Reichle, 2012) can simultaneously reduce people’s ability to self-catch mind wandering while increasing their tendency to be caught mind wandering during experience sampling. Other applications of meta-awareness include clarifying the process of introspection (Schooler & Schreiber, 2004) and conceptualizing failures to recognize emotional experiences (Schooler & Maus, 2010).


Selected Publications


Jonathan Schooler

My lab’s research takes a “big picture” perspective in attempting to understand the nature of mental life, and in particular consciousness. Combining empirical, philosophical, and contemplative traditions, we address broad questions that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Michael Mrazek

Michael Mrazek, Ph.D. is the director of research at the University of California's Center for Mindfulness & Human Potential. His research identifies innovative ways to increase the effectiveness of mindfulness training, particularly in high schools. He also tests the limits of how much a person can improve through intensive evidence-based training programs that target health, mindfulness, and self-control. 

Claire Zedelius

One line of Claire's research focuses on the role meta-awareness plays in the dynamic changes between states of mind wandering and focused attention. Another line examines the relationship between different types of mind wandering, creativity and curiosity. 

Victoria Galvan

Majoring in Psychological and Brain Sciences, Victoria is currently assisting Madeleine Gross with her research on how creativity and curiosity are generated and further explored. She is also collaborating with Elliot Ihm and Anne Taves among others on the Inventory Project. She is especially interested in the adaptive nature of human perceptions and how those guide behavior as well as investigating how subjective experiences stem from objective neural processes.

Kiana Sabugo

Kiana is an undergraduate Psychological & Brain Sciences and Philosophy double major. She is currently assisting James Elliott in studying fluctuations of mental states during meditation using EEG. Her interests include meta-awareness and belief in free will/determinism.

Research Collaborators

York University