In Defense of Daydreaming

If you can make it through this longish (by internet standards) article on the importance of daydreaming without actually letting your mind wander than all the power to you.

Even more telling is the discovery that zoning out may be the most fruitful type of mind wandering. In their fMRI study, Schooler and his colleagues found that the default network and executive control systems are even more active during zoning out than they are during the less extreme mind wandering with awareness. When we are no longer even aware that our minds are wandering, we may be able to think most deeply about the big picture.

Because a fair amount of mind wandering happens without our ever noticing, the solutions it lets us reach may come as a surprise. There are many stories in the history of science of great discoveries occurring to people out of the blue. The French mathematician Henri Poincaré once wrote about how he struggled for two weeks with a difficult mathematical proof. He set it aside to take a bus to a geology conference, and the moment he stepped on the bus, the solution came to him. It is possible that mind wandering led him to the solution. John Kounios of Drexel University and his colleagues have done brain scans that capture the moment when people have a sudden insight that lets them solve a word puzzle. Many of the regions that become active during those creative flashes belong to the default network and the executive control system as well.

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