Daniel Smilek


head shot of Dr. Dan Smilek
BSc (McMaster), MA, PhD (Waterloo)

Contact information

Vision and Attention Lab

Recipient, 2007 Outstanding Performance Award

Research interests

My research explores the factors that influence how people pay attention while they perform tasks in their everyday lives.  My students and I have explored various aspects of attentional engagement, such as (1) the ubiquitous experience of mind wandering, (2) sustained attention to tasks over protracted periods of time (i.e., vigilance), (3) attention-related errors, (4) media multitasking, and (5) peak engagement (i.e., flow).  We have examined these aspects of attention in tightly controlled experimental settings, as well as in more naturalistic everyday contexts (e.g., live undergraduate lectures). Our focus has been on proposing and testing theories of human attention, as well as on developing a practical understanding of how people engage with the world around them.

Funding sources:

  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)

Research opportunities for students

If you are a student who is interested in research, there are lots of ways you can get involved in the lab. Please don't hesitate to email me at dsmilek@uwaterloo.ca or to drop by my office - I will be happy to chat with you!

Selected publications

  • Seli, P., Risko, E. F., Smilek, D., & Schacter, D. L. (2016). Mind-wandering with and without intention.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20, 605-617. DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2016.05.010.

  • Seli, P., Risko, E. F., & Smilek, D. (2016). On the necessity of distinguishing between unintentional and intentional mind wandering.  Psychological Science, 27, 685-691. DOI: 10.1177/0956797616634068.

  • Thomson, D. R., Besner, D., & Smilek, D. (2016). A critical assessment of the evidence for sensitivity loss in modern vigilance tasks. Psychological Review, 123, 70-83. DOI: 10.1037/rev0000021.

  • Thomson, D. R., Besner, D., & Smilek, D. (2015).  A resource control account of sustained attention: Evidence from mind wandering and vigilance paradigms.  Perspectives on Psychological Science,10, 82-96. DOI: 10.1177/1745691614556681.

  • Ralph, B. C. W., Thomson, D. R., Cheyne, J. A., & Smilek, D. (2014).  Media multitasking and failures of attention in everyday life.  Psychological Research, 78, 661-669. DOI: 10.1007/s00426-013-0523-7.

  • Wammes, J. D., Boucher, P. O., Seli, P., Cheyne, J. A., & Smilek, D. (2016).  Mind wandering during lectures I: Changes in rates across an entire semester. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 2, 13-32. DOI: 10.1037/stl0000053.

  • Seli, P., Carriere, J. S. A., Thomson D. R., Cheyne, J. A., Ehgoetz-Martens, K. A., & Smilek, D. (2014). Restless mind, restless body.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40, 660-668. DOI: 10.1037/a0035260.