May 18, 2010

Wandering out of a bind

A wandering mind can do important work, scientists are learning - and may even be essential:

Many scientists argue that daydreaming is a crucial tool for creativity, a thought process that allows the brain to make new associations and connections.

“If your mind didn’t wander, then you’d be largely shackled to whatever you are doing right now,” says Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But instead you can engage in mental time travel and other kinds of simulation. During a daydream, your thoughts are really unbounded.”

In a forthcoming paper, Schooler's lab has shown that people who engage in more daydreaming score higher on experimental measures of creativity, which require people to make a set of unusual connections.

[W]hen we are stuck on a particularly difficult problem, a good daydream isn’t just an escape - it may be the most productive thing we can do.

From The Boston Globe.