Dr Jennifer M Windt

Jennifer is a senior research fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Monash University. Her research focuses on philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science.

She is particularly interested in the purpose of spontaneous thought, or mind wandering processes – in which we disengage from ongoing tasks and the environment. In these states, behavioural responsiveness is reduced, attention is directed inward and executive control is compromised.

Her research indicates that spontaneous thought, or mind wandering plays an important role in planning, creativity and associative thought.

Using the analysis of spontaneous conscious processes, Jennifer’s work addresses questions about the concepts of sleep and wakefulness, including sleep stages – which may help identify the minimal conditions for consciousness and self-experience. She examines the relationship between dreams and dream reports, and the comparison of lucid dreams with normal non-lucid dreams from REM sleep.

In her book Dreaming (MIT, 2015) Jennifer proposes an empirically informed framework for dream experience. She looks at how to locate dreams relative to concepts such as perception, hallucination and imagination as well as belief, knowledge and thinking.

Taking a multidisciplinary approach, Jennifer is teaming up with Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences – including colleagues A/Prof Naotsugu Tsuchiya and Thomas Andrillon – to tackle the methodological challenges of measuring thought. Together they’re designing novel techniques to capture subjective experience and distinguish subtypes of mind wandering and attentional lapses.

Investigating how changes in conscious experience, including dreaming, arise from local changes in brain activity promises to enrich our image of our minds.

Jennifer also aims to promote high-quality open access publications. Together with Thomas Metzinger she edited Open MIND  (also published by MIT in 2016), and with Sascha Fink (Magdeburg) and Wanja Wiese (Mainz) she recently founded the journal Philosophy and the Mind Sciences. It is open access and free of charge for authors and readers.

Why does consciousness research matter?

An understanding of consciousness, and the mechanisms that create our experience of the world and our place within it, is more important than ever before. Significant to our everyday lives, consciousness research has far reaching implications for: