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. 

Dharma Lewis

Dharma is a Mexico City native who is passionate about education and outreach. She earned her Biopsychology B.S. at UCSB where she studied the link between mindfulness, growth mindset, and mind-wandering as META Lab Manager. Her work currently focuses on pedagogical implications of meta-cognition, and the role of culture and mindsets in mindfulness.

Alexandra Parker

Alex is a fourth year Psychological and Brain Sciences major. She is assisting Josh Ortega with his research on transliminality, how it manifests within the dream-wake cycle, and the implications this may have for thought content and sleep quality. Her interests include mindfulness, meta awareness, and how meditation practices can be incorporated into psychological/psychiatric treatment.

Kiana Sabugo

Kiana is interested in the relationship between meditation, mind wandering, and belief in free will. She completed an honors thesis with advisor James Elliott and graduated from UCSB in June of 2022 with a B.S. in Psychological & Brain Sciences and a B.A. in Philosophy. She is currently the assistant at UCSB's Brain Imaging Center.

Research Collaborators

York University