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The aim of this study was to analyze the functions of goal-directed thoughts and the content of spontaneous and stimulus-independent thoughts and mindwandering in a competitive setting and to explore links between different types of thoughts. Therefore, 17 young sport science students competed in a card-sorting task, while their recorded thoughts were collected between trials. Afterwards, the participants classified their own transcripts into different types of thoughts. The results indicated that goal-directed thinking serves a variety of functions, that spontaneous thought content might reflect a series of psychological states and processes relevant for performance, and that the content of mindwandering was idiosyncratic. Moreover, goal-directed thinking increased during competition, whereas mindwandering diminished. Lastly, mindwandering was rarely connected to other types of thinking, whereas the most recurrent connection between thoughts was found between goal-directed and spontaneous thinking.
Latinjak is with the School of Science, Technology and Engineering, University of Suffolk, Ipswich, United Kingdom, and the EUSES-School for Health and Sport Sciences, University of Girona, Girona, Spain.