Daydreaming is a sign of being more creative and having higher intelligence, research suggests.
Those who report more daydreaming have higher intellectual abilities and their brains work more efficiently.
People with efficient brains tend to have spare capacity, so it is natural for the mind to wander.
The conclusions come from a study in which over 100 people stared at a fixed point for five minutes while their brains were scanned.
The aim was to see how the areas of the brain worked together when they were given nothing in particular to do.
The results showed that those with more efficient brains were also smarter and more creative.
Dr Eric Schumacher, study co-author, said:
“People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering.
People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad.
You try to pay attention and you can’t.
Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn’t always true.
Some people have more efficient brains.”
One sign of an efficient brain is being able to zone in and out of conversations without missing anything.
Dr Schumacher said:
“Our findings remind me of the absent-minded professor — someone who’s brilliant, but off in his or her own world, sometimes oblivious to their own surroundings.
Or school children who are too intellectually advanced for their classes.
While it may take five minutes for their friends to learn something new, they figure it out in a minute, then check out and start daydreaming.”
Ms Christine A. Godwin, the study’s first author, wants to examine exactly when mind wandering could be useful and when not:
“There are important individual differences to consider as well, such as a person’s motivation or intent to stay focused on a particular task.”
About the author
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. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Neuropsychologia (Godwin et al., 2017).