Find your mind drifting away during work meetings? Scientists have found a reason why you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself – new research suggests daydreaming is actually good for you.
A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that daydreaming might be a sign that you’re actually smart and creative.
Study co-author Eric Schumacher said: “People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering.”
The team measured the brain patterns of more than 100 test subjects using an MRI machine. The volunteers were asked to focus on a fixed point for five minutes.
The researchers then used the data to figure out which parts of the brain “worked in unison”.
Christine Godwin, study co-author and PhD candidate, said: “The correlated brain regions gave us insight about which areas of the brain work together during an awake, resting state.
“Interestingly, research has suggested that these same brain patterns measured during these states are related to different cognitive abilities.”
The researchers then compared the data with tests that measured the test subjects’ intellectual and creative ability, with the participants filling out a questionnaire about how much their mind wandered in daily life.
Those who reported more frequent daydreaming registered better efficient brain systems in the MRI machine and scored higher on intellectual and creative ability.
Schumacher said: “People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad. You try to pay attention and you can’t.
“Our data is consistent with the idea that this isn’t always true. Some people have more efficient brains.”
Schumacher says higher efficiency allows more capacity to think. It also means you can zone in and out of conversations without missing the key points.
Schumacher added: “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.”
The psychologists say more follow-up research is needed to further understand the benefits and downsides of a wandering mind.
The research is published in the journal Neuropsychologia.