UC Science Today – The cognitive value of daydreaming

January 19, 2017

Being called a daydreamer, especially as an adult, often has negative connotations. But researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara have been studying the value of what they call ‘mind wandering’. Jonathan Schooler, a professor of psychological and brain sciences has been looking specifically at creative scientists and creative writers to see when they have creative ideas.

"What we found is that in both of these groups, about a third of their ideas happened while they’re mind wandering. And interestingly, we found although overall they don’t find their ideas that they had while mind wandering any more creative than the ones that they had at work, they’re no less. And in many ways, that’s pretty striking, too. If the idea that you have, you know, while gardening is good as the one that you have at your desk, that tells me something. But we also find that the ideas that they have when they’re mind wandering are more likely to be an ‘Ah-ha!’ kind of solution. Something where they really were not expecting it and more likely to involve overcoming an impasse."

So the next time someone knocks you for being caught in a daydream, let them know – your brain needs this break.