It also enables you to switch to “autopilot” for routine tasks like driving.
Daydreaming during meetings or class might be a sign that you’re smart and creative, according to a Georgia Institute of Technology study.
“People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering,” said Eric Schumacher, an associate psychology professor who co-authored a research paper published in the journal Neuropsychologia.
Is your brain efficient?
The scientists found a correlation between mind wandering and fluid intelligence, creative ability, and more efficient brain systems.
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, then naturally tune back in without missing important points or steps, according to Schumacher. He says higher efficiency also means more capacity to think and the ability to mind-wander when performing easy tasks.
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,” said Schumacher. “Or school children 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.”
Performing on autopilot
Recent research at the University of Cambridge published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences showed that daydreaming also plays a key role in allowing us to switch to “autopilot” once we are familiar with a task.
“Rather than waiting passively for things to happen to us, we are constantly trying to predict the environment around us,” says Deniz Vatansever, who carried out the study as part of his PhD at the University of Cambridge and who is now based at the University of York.
“Our evidence suggests it is the default mode network* that enables us do this.
* In 2001, scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine found that a collection of brain regions appeared to be more active during such states of rest. This network was named the “default mode network.” While it has since been linked to, among other things, daydreaming, thinking about the past, planning for the future, and creativity, its precise function is unclear.