Letting Your Mind Wander

I was trying to daydream but my mind kept wandering.  Steven Wright

What is mind-wandering?  And is it always such a bad thing?   No matter how hard you try paying attention on what you’re doing,  your mind is going to drift.   Whether driving on the highway, writing an essay, or sitting in class, we seem constitutionally incapable of keeping our mind on the here and now, at least not for very long.   According to some studies, as much as 50% of our waking hours are spent in some form of mind-wandering whether we want to or not.   Certainly that much mind-wandering can have an adverse effect on our performance, and perhaps even our personal safety when not paying attention to a potentially dangerous task.   If nothing else, mind-wandering can be personally embarrassing since we all have painful experiences of being caught out mind-wandering instead of paying attention to what we were supposed to be doing.   (I had a particular problem with this in grade school, make of that what you will).

A recent overview on research into mind-wandering has just been published in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology.  The authors, Benjamin W. Mooneyham and Jonathan W. Schooler of the University of California at Santa Barbara discuss the costs involved with mind-wandering and how it affects performance on different cognitive tasks.   They also discuss whether mind-wandering may be far more beneficial that we assume though this may be hard to accept considering the adverse effects that have been demonstrated by researchers.

To read more, check out my Psychology Today post here.


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