Feeds

Daydreaming? You're actually solving complex problems

At last - a scientific excuse for workplace indolence

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Scientists at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have provided vital scientific justification for staring vacantly from behind your desk: What your boss believes is bone idleness is actually your brain indulging in "complex problem solving".

Professor Kalina Christoff, of the UBC Department of Psychology and lead author of the study, summarised: "Mind wandering is typically associated with negative things like laziness or inattentiveness. But this study shows our brains are very active when we daydream - much more active than when we focus on routine tasks."

To prove this Christoff and her colleagues stuck subjects in a fMRI scanner where they "performed the simple routine task of pushing a button when numbers appear on a screen", as ScienceDaily explains.

The researchers "tracked subjects' attentiveness moment-to-moment through brain scans, subjective reports from subjects and by tracking their performance on the task".

They found that daydreaming "is an important cognitive state where we may unconsciously turn our attention from immediate tasks to sort through important problems in our lives".

Specifically, while it had previously been believed that daydreaming involved just the brain's "default network" - tasked with "easy, routine mental activity" carried out by the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC), the posterior cingulate cortex and the temporoparietal junction - it's now evident that the "executive network" is also working hard.

This includes input from the lateral PFC and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which indulge in "high-level, complex problem-solving".

Christoff said: "This is a surprising finding, that these two brain networks are activated in parallel. Until now, scientists have thought they operated on an either-or basis - when one was activated, the other was thought to be dormant."

The upshot of the research is that, if you're struggling to solve a complex problem, you might be better off switching to something less taxing and letting your mind wander.

Christoff concluded: "When you daydream, you may not be achieving your immediate goal - say reading a book or paying attention in class - but your mind may be taking that time to address more important questions in your life, such as advancing your career or personal relationships."

The team's findings - entitled Experience sampling during fMRI reveals default network and executive system contributions to mind wandering - are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.