A new study suggests that daydreaming isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it might be a sign that you’re really smart and creative.
“People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering,” says Eric Schumacher, the Georgia Institute of Technology associate psychology professor who co-authored the study.
Inside the mind of daydreamers
Schumacher, lead co-author Christine Godwin and their research team measured the brain pattern of more than 100 people while they lay in an MRI machine.
Participants were instructed to focus on a stationary fixation point for five minutes. The Georgia Tech team used the data to identify which parts of the brain worked in unison.
“The correlated brain regions gave us insight about which areas of the brain work together during an awake, resting state,” says Godwin, a Georgia Tech psychology Ph.D. candidate.
Daydreamers proved to be smarter
Once they figured out how the brain works together at rest, the researchers compared the data with the results of participants’ intelligence and creativity tests.
Participants also filled in a questionnaire about how often their mind wandered daily.
Those who reported more frequent daydreaming scored higher on intellectual and creative ability tests and had more efficient brain systems measured in the MRI machine.
Daydreaming is a sign of a highly efficient brain
“People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad. You try to pay attention and you can’t,” says Schumacher. “Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn’t always true. Some people have more efficient brains.”
Schumacher says higher efficiency means more capacity to think, and the brain may mind wander when performing easy tasks.
How can you tell if your brain is efficient?
One clue is that you can zone in and out of conversations or tasks, when appropriate, and naturally tune back in without missing important points or steps.
“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,” says Schumacher. “Or schoolchildren who are too intellectually advanced for their classes. While it may take five minutes for their friends to learn something new, they figure it out in a minute, then check out and start daydreaming.”
So, the next time someone tells you to stop daydreaming, use your highly efficient brain to tune them out!
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