Daydreaming at work could boost your creativity

Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

For a study, academics at the Georgia Institute of Technology measured the brain patterns of more than 100 people while they were in an MRI machine. Participants were instructed to focus on a stationary fixation point for five minutes, with the data accumulated used to identify which parts of the brain work in unison.

Once they figured out how the brain works together at rest, the team compared the data with tests that measured the participant's intellectual and creative ability, and it was discovered that those who reported more frequent daydreaming scored higher and had more efficient brain systems.

"People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad. You try to pay attention and you can't," said study co-author, Associate Professor Eric Schumacher. "Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn't always true. Some people have more efficient brains."

Professor Schumacher explained that higher efficiency means more capacity to think, and the brain may mind wander when performing easy tasks. So, how can you tell if your brain is efficient? One clue is that you can zone in and out of conversations or tasks when appropriate, then naturally tune back in without missing important points or steps.

"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," said Professor Schumacher. "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."

The researchers hope the findings open the door for follow-up research to further understand when mind wandering is harmful, and when it may actually be helpful.

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