Daydreaming Can Find Solutions to Complex Problems

November 27, 2012 4:15 pm Last Updated: April 2, 2013 3:37 am


Mind wandering may increase creative thinking, according to a new international study.

The research team found that resuming a difficult task following a break and an easy task can improve performance by around 40 percent. 

“Many influential scientific thinkers claim to have had their moments of inspiration while engaged in thoughts or activities not directly aimed at solving the problem they were trying to solve,” said lead author Benjamin Baird at the University of California—Santa Barbara, according to The Telegraph.

“This study demonstrated that taking a break involving an undemanding task improved performance on a classic creativity task far more than taking a break involving a demanding task, resting or taking no break.”

In the complex task, nearly 150 participants aged 19 to 32 listed as many unusual uses for everyday objects as possible in two minutes. They were divided into four groups: one had no break from the task, while the others had a 12-minute break during which time they either rested, performed a demanding memory task or performed an undemanding task.

The people in the latter group daydreamed a lot because the task was so easy. Everyone then went back to the original listing task. 

For new everyday items, all groups performed the same, but when reconsidering earlier objects, the daydreamers’ performance increased by 40 percent.

The results were published in the October issue of Psychological Science.

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