Let Your Mind Wander


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     daydream.jpg
     We've all spaced out in class before and let our mind wander off into our endless imagination. We can't help that we're daydreamers. But did you know that daydreaming can actually make you smarter?
 
     There have been a couple studies done where results show that kids who let their mind wander during a task actually remembered things and, in overall, did better. In The Week, they say that when we daydream, we use our working memory. Working memory is "the brain's ability to run multiple thought processes at the same time".  And according to a research, a strong working memory was linked to higher intelligence.

     In one research, scientists split up the group into two and gave one group a difficult task while giving the other group a less difficult task. Before splitting up, both groups were given the same list of items and were asked to think of as many uses as they could for those objects later on. For those who were given the less difficult task, the people in that group were able to let their mind wander - allowing them to use their working memory. Then after the tasks, one group was given a break time while the other had to do something so boring that it would provoke mind wandering. The group that had the less difficult task and was given the boring task after were able to come up with 41% more possibilities and uses for the list of items they were given than the other group. That less difficult task and boring task they had to do allowed that group to let their mind wander, and in turn use their working memory. To read more on that experiment you can click here

     Next time you're daydreaming in class, don't worry if you weren't paying attention. Because according to studies, you're actually smarter than the people who are focusing! The New Yorker says that "We think we're wasting time, but, actually, an intellectual fountain really is spurting". So, let your intellectual fountain spurt; let your mind wander.

9 Comments

Hey Ha Een!

I had no idea daydreaming made me smarter but I'm happy to know now that it does! But I have found in another article also in The Week that says that daydreaming can be bad for you! The researchers in this article found out people who focused on one specific task were happier than people who let their minds wander. It's strange how the same website can have two contradictory articles. I guess we can conclude that daydreaming can be good, but as the saying goes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing!

It seems like in some cases it's better to let your mind wander but in other cases it's not. Having your mind wander too much will result in not paying attention at all to the necessary material which obviously defeats the purpose of even being in class. On the flip side, focusing too hard might result in tiring yourself out therefore disabling you from learning more information. I think that teachers should somehow implement a slight break in their lectures to give the students' brains a rest. This way, students can let their brains wander without sacrificing important information.

I found this really interesting because it goes against everything we as students have been taught since elementary school. Daydreamers were always scolded and told to focus, but did this actually hinder their learning? While this theory is interesting and the idea of strengthening one's working memory certainly makes sense, like Anna I wonder how much daydreaming is too much?
Though it may be a bit of a stretch, this reminded me of another blog post I commented about polyphasic sleep. In a study referenced in a blog, study participants who took a nap were far more alert and had increased performance in a rigorous learning task compared to participants who did not nap. While daydreaming strengthened working memory, napping simply allowed the brain to "reboot". I think the moral of these blogs is that no matter what kind of break you take while learning/studying/etc, your brain will certainly thank you for it.

This reminds me of a study that I read about regarding fast food. It found that if kids had McDonalds before tests that they would receive better test score than those that had a wholesome lunch. The study found that the extra fat in the food would allow the neurons in their brains to make connections faster.
In this case it seems that by not focusing you are allowing your brain to use its full potential.
When recently researching the effects of energy drinks I found scholars to state them as unhealthy because they did not allow the brain and body to function in a relaxed state.
Just like your study found, both prove that the brain functions best in a relaxed state.

This reminds me of a study that I read about regarding fast food. It found that if kids had McDonalds before tests that they would receive better test score than those that had a wholesome lunch. The study found that the extra fat in the food would allow the neurons in their brains to make connections faster.
In this case it seems that by not focusing you are allowing your brain to use its full potential.
When recently researching the effects of energy drinks I found scholars to state them as unhealthy because they did not allow the brain and body to function in a relaxed state.
Just like your study found, both prove that the brain functions best in a relaxed state.

I always used to think daydreaming was a bad thing. I daydream excessively and I constantly related it to me having a very low attention span and not being able to concentrate. I find myself daydreaming not only in class but during daily activities. My mind wanders when I am walking to class, when I'm out at a social event and when I'm having lunch with friends.

I was a little curious about your word choice. You said that daydreaming makes you "smarter." Does daydreaming really make you "smarter," or does it simply have a positive impact on your ability to generate ideas when you are focusing on a specific task?

Well some articles that I read did use the word "smarter". I do still feel a little skeptical about this research but I thought it was interesting enough to look into. The conclusion I drew from the articles on daydreaming was that, I think that daydreaming allows people to multitask and use their brain more which can lead to a more active brain. So to answer your question, I think daydreamers are able to think outside the box more which I guess can be seen as a smarter person in some experiments.

That's actually really interesting! I've never heard about McDonalds linking to better test scores. But I think it is true that our brain functions better in a relaxed state. When we're stressed we tend to over think or have a trouble thinking under the pressure. So maybe daydreaming is linked to lower stress levels and being relaxed, I'll have to look more into it.

I don't think that daydreaming excessively is healthy, just that sometimes letting your mind wander will help you refresh your thoughts and be able to have a new perspective on things. Also, like Caitlin said, daydreaming probably does help you "reboot" or "refresh" your memory like a power nap can.

Also to Jenny, I think you're right that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. I don't encourage you guys daydream too much during class but don't feel bad if you find yourself letting your mind wander! And it's interesting that you found an article contradicting this article on the same website. Maybe I'll continue to do a series of posts on this topic, thanks!

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