Originally posted in our September 2022 Top of Mind Newsletter.
What causes our minds to wander? Is it helping us or hurting us? Researchers have found that the answer is more complicated than you might think. But, as the fields of psychology develop and shift, so too does neuroscience. We can now better than ever understand what parts of the brain are doing while we perform tasks or when we are prompted to think about specific topics. But what does this teach us?
For one thing, we are beginning to understand that mind-wandering may serve several functions, even when it seems counterintuitive, like when we are distracted at work. While nothing is conclusive with this concept, it reveals that our thoughts and minds are doing a lot of work throughout the day, depending on how we are stimulating the brain. When a task is harder, we often focus more on it and are less likely to wander. When a task is easier, we do more wandering.
From ELI’s perspective, this is very valuable as we reflect on the importance of ideating and tinkering. As we embrace trial-and-error problem-solving, we need to give ourselves space for the mind to wander.