Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Do not disturb: Daydreamers hard at work

The next time you walk by Bob’s desk and see him staring into space, daydreaming about his summer plans, you may want to think twice about telling him to snap out of it and get back to work.

What looks like lazy daydreaming on the outside may actually be a sign that Bob’s brain is busy finding the solution to a difficult problem.

New research out of the University of British Columbia suggests that our brains are still hard at work while we daydream. The study found that activity in numerous areas of the brain increases when our minds wander. Researchers also discovered that the problem-solving areas of our brains, once thought to stay dormant while daydreaming, are actually highly active during such episodes.

"Mind wandering is typically associated with negative things like laziness or inattentiveness," says lead author, Prof. Kalina Christoff, UBC Dept. of Psychology. "But this study shows our brains are very active when we daydream – much more active than when we focus on routine tasks." (Science Daily)

“One of the things that I hope might come out of our study is that people realize that their brains are definitely not getting shut down when they mind-wander,” she said. “They’re very active….You have this unique brain state where instead of having one or the other shut down, both networks are available to be used. It’s a mental state that’s really not lazy, from the point of view of the brain.”

That may be why it seems as if many people’s best ideas come from inadvertent straying of the mind.” (Ubyssey Online)

So, the next time you have to solve a difficult problem or come up with a creative idea, sitting down and aggressively thinking about it could be the least effective way to find a solution.

As the research suggests, it might be best to let yourself work on a simple task that gives your mind room to wander. You may be surprised with the creative ideas your mind comes up with while you were daydreaming.

We’ll leave you with a quick clip from a commercial you’ve probably seen before. But this time, the practice of “ideating” may not look like such a bad idea. Take a look:

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