Daydreaming is NOT Just A Waste Of Time, Studies Finds

People tend to think of daydreaming and letting the mind wander as a waste of time.


People tend to think of daydreaming and letting the mind wander as a waste of time.

How wrong they are.

New research suggests daydreaming could be key to success and higher creativity.

Professor Moshe Bar, who led the research said:

“Over the last 15 or 20 years, scientists have shown that — unlike the localized neural activity associated with specific tasks — mind wandering involves the activation of a gigantic default network involving many parts of the brain.

This cross-brain involvement may be involved in behavioral outcomes such as creativity and mood, and may also contribute to the ability to stay successfully on-task while the mind goes off on its merry mental way.”

For the research, neuroscientists stimulated the frontal lobes electrically.

Professor Bar explained:

“We focused tDCS [electrical] stimulation on the frontal lobes because this brain region has been previously implicated in mind wandering, and also because is a central locus of the executive control network that allows us to organize and plan for the future.”

With the electrical stimulation people reported more daydreaming and mind wandering.

They also performed slightly better on a task they were given to do.

Professor Bar said:

“Interestingly, while our study’s external stimulation increased the incidence of mind wandering, rather than reducing the subjects’ ability to complete the task, it caused task performance to become slightly improved.

The external stimulation actually enhanced the subjects’ cognitive capacity.”

Previous studies have linked “on-task” mind wandering or daydreaming with increased performance.

As I explained in the previous post:

“Daydreaming and mind-wandering can have positive effects on mental performance in the right circumstances, a new study finds.

It used to be thought that when people are trying to solve puzzles, they perform best when the mind wandering part of the brain — called the ‘default network’ — is relatively inactive.

This makes sense given that ‘off-task’ thinking is likely to distract our focus.

In contrast to other research, though, a new study suggests the default network can sometimes help with tasks that require focus and quick reactions.”

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Axelrod et al., 2016).

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

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