A lot of people think that those who let their minds wander off to some fantasy land cannot possibly have what it takes to pay close attention to any type of task. Remarks such as “get your head out of the clouds” or “you need to live in reality” are commonly expressed to daydreamers both young and old. However, researchers have found that daydreaming may actually be a good thing. According to an article in the Smithsonian, the Psychology of Science has released data from a new study revealing that those who daydream, or let their minds wander, may have a higher degree of working memory.
How The Experiment Was Done
This surprising revelation came from a study that was performed by researchers from the University of North Carolina. They discovered some very interesting information on how those who allow their brain to wander, or to daydream, may actually have working memories that outperform those who do not daydream. The researchers were interested to see if there is a link between the capacity of the working memory and how a person’s mind wandering may or may not have an effect on it.
Researchers performed an experience sampling study, which included 124 undergraduate participants. The participants used electronic devices over the course of 7 days to record when their thoughts wandered during an activity. The personal digital assistant would send out an alert to the participant at random times each day. This alert made them stop and report at that moment if their mind was wandering while working on the task that they were currently doing. The participants also had to record what the daydream was about, which included information on both the physical aspects of the daydream as well as the psychological aspects of it.
The study concluded that individuals who allow their minds to wander do have a better working memory ability. Working memory is defined as the brain’s ability to retain and recall information in the face of distractions. The results show that a person who daydreams, or lets their mind wander during some mundane activities will have a larger working memory capacity than those who do not. The participants who recorded on the personal digital assistant devices that they were daydreaming during the smaller tasks focused more on the tasks that required concentration than the individuals who did not let their minds wander.
Paying full attention to something means that the participants who did daydream during certain tasks could block out sensory information in the surrounding environment enough to give full, undivided attention to the harder tasks. The participants who did not record any information in the personal digital assistant devices about daydreaming were not able to block out the interfering sensory information from the world around them enough to give the harder tasks the full concentration that it needed, and so they performed worse than the other group did.
The results of the study performed by the researchers from the University of North Carolina show that when a task is mundane or easy for daydreamers, their working memory is still searching for something to do and this is where the mind wandering comes in.
Some researchers believe that this is due to the fact that daydreaming causes the working memory to perform in the same way as it would for a difficult task that requires full concentration. The good news is that the results of this study reveal that the working memory is something that can be enhanced the more that it is used. So, let your mind wander and dream up whatever it takes to create a happy place.
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