‘Mind Wandering’ — Mental Selfies

April 8, 2015

M-C--Escher-Hand-with-Reflecting-Sphere-113278Spied this article last weekend from Psychology Today, which explained somewhat the perpetual narrative in my own brain, and current, actual state of my mental state — keynote:

One of the original pieces of research on the subject of mind wandering was completed by psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University, is described in the journal Science.
Killingsworth and Gilbert concluded that people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.
In the research, entitled “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Killingsworth and Gilbert argue: “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

(Illustration: M.C Escher’s ‘Three Spheres II,‘ found here).

Since a way-little asshole, I’ve always had a high-intense bit of ‘mind wandering,’ but knew the process as just ‘daydreaming.’ Coupled with an imaginative, way-cinematic brain-screen, daydreaming over the years became de facto reality — filling the useless gaps to whatever was taking place in real time, most-likely, right in front of me.
There’s all kinds of these mind wandering (or daydreaming) types, but it’s still all imagination and fantasy, an escape, I’d venture, at least in my mind, where right now, could be anywhere.
Further from that research noted by Psychology Today:

“Mind-wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities,” says Killingsworth, “This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present.”
Killingsworth and Gilbert found that people were happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation.
They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer.
“Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth says.
“In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”

Understandable — somewhere else is better than where we are, but that ‘somewhere else‘ is most-likely just a daydream episode stretched into real time. In my particular case at my age, not much stretching — all old re-runs.
The Psychology Today piece also included several other research done on ‘mind wandering,’ daydreaming and such, including this study from the Bar-Ilan University and its Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, supervised by Prof. Moshe Bar — daydreaming might also make you do a better job, despite not paying full-attention:

In an unanticipated finding, the present study demonstrated how the increased mind wandering behavior produced by external stimulation not only does not harm subjects’ ability to succeed at an appointed task, it actually helps.
Bar believes that this surprising result might stem from the convergence, within a single brain region, of both the “thought controlling” mechanisms of executive function and the “thought freeing” activity of spontaneous, self-directed daydreams.

While it is commonly assumed that people have a finite cognitive capacity for paying attention, Bar says that the present study suggests that the truth may be more complicated.
“Interestingly, while our study’s external stimulation increased the incidence of mind wandering, rather than reducing the subjects’ ability to complete the task, it caused task performance to become slightly improved.
“The external stimulation actually enhanced the subjects’ cognitive capacity.”

Interesting article, long, but well-worth the read — gives science to the fantasy.
Melancholy minds meander…

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