Caitlin Mills

Office: Psychology, McConnell Hall, Durham, NH 03824
headshot of Caitlin Mills

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.


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

Research Interests

  • Cognitive psychology
  • Computer Science
  • Educational Psychology
  • Neuroscience

Courses Taught

  • PSYC 741: Adv Top/Science of Daydream

Selected Publications

Mills, C., & Christoff, K. (2018). Finding Consistency in Boredom by Appreciating its Instability. Trends in cognitive sciences, 22, 744-747.

Mills, C., Raffaelli, Q., Irving, Z. C., Stan, D., & Christoff, K. (2018). Is an off-task mind a freely-moving mind? Examining the relationship between different dimensions of thought. Consciousness and cognition, 58, 20-33.

Wammes, J. D., Ralph, B. C. W., Mills, C., Bosch, N., Duncan, T. L., & Smilek, D. (2018). Disengagement during lectures: Media multitasking and mind wandering in university classrooms. Computers & Education.

Faber, M., & Mills, C. (2018). The critical role of the Hippocampus in mind wandering. Journal of Neuroscience, 38, 6439-6441.

Zedelius, C. M., Mills, C., & Schooler, J. W. (2018). Beyond subjective judgments: Predicting evaluations of creative writing from computational linguistic features. Behavior research methods, 1-16.

Mills, C., Herrera-Bennett, A., Faber, M., & Christoff, K. (2018). Why the mind wanders: How spontaneous thought’s default variability may support episodic efficiency and semantic optimization. The Oxford Handbook of Spontaneous Thought: Mind-Wandering, Creativity, and Dreaming, 11.

Smith, G. K., Mills, C., Paxton, A., & Christoff, K. (2018). Mind-wandering rates fluctuate across the day: evidence from an experience-sampling study. Cognitive research: principles and implications, 3, 54.

Martin, L., Mills, C., D Mello, S. K., & Risko, E. F. (2018). Re-watching lectures as a study strategy and its effect on mind wandering.. Experimental psychology.

Christoff, K., Mills, C., Andrews-Hanna, J. R., Irving, Z. C., Thompson, E., Fox, K. C. R., & Kam, J. W. Y. (2018). Mind-wandering as a scientific concept: cutting through the definitional haze. Trends in cognitive sciences, 22, 957-959.

Joksimović, S., Poquet, O., Kovanović, V., Dowell, N., Mills, C., Gašević, D., . . . Brooks, C. (2018). How do we model learning at scale? A systematic review of research on MOOCs. Review of Educational Research, 88, 43-86.