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What Does It Mean If I Find Myself Daydreaming?

In 2012, researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science conducted a study about daydreamers. They concluded that people with "wandering minds" -- those who are able to think about other things while engaged in routine tasks -- have a more responsive working memory system. In other words, their brains have so much extra capacity that they don't need to concentrate solely on the job at hand. “Our results suggest that the sorts of planning that people do quite often in daily life -- when they’re on the bus, when they’re cycling to work, when they’re in the shower -- are probably supported by working memory,” said researcher Jonathan Smallwood. “Their brains are trying to allocate resources to the most pressing problems.”

Working, working, working:

  • Working memory has been correlated with measures of intelligence, such as IQ scores. But this study shows that working memory is also tied to the ability to think beyond one’s immediate surroundings.
  • Working memory is different from short-term memory, neuropsychologists say. Working memory allows for the manipulation of stored information, while short-term memory only refers to the passive storage of information.
  • The term "working memory" was first used in the 1960s in theories that likened the mind to a computer. Working memory is an important brain function related to reasoning and decision-making.
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