Supporting Mind Wandering (02-05-19)

Research by a Gable-lead team indicates the value of supporting opportunities for mind wandering, for example, via art in workplaces or greenery-enhanced walkways inside or outdoors.  The investigators found that when during “two studies . . . professional writers and physicists reported on their most creative idea of the day. . . . Participants reported that one fifth of their most significant ideas of the day were formed during spontaneous task-independent mind wandering—operationalized here as (a) engaging in an activity other than working and (b) thinking about something unrelated to the generated idea. There were no differences between ratings of the creativity or importance of ideas that occurred during mind wandering and those that occurred on task. However, ideas that occurred during mind wandering were more likely to be associated with overcoming an impasse on a problem and to be experienced as ‘aha’ moments, compared with ideas generated while on task.”

Shelly Gable, Elizabeth Hopper, and Jonathan Schooler.  “When the Muses Strike:  Creative Ideas of Physicists and Writers Routinely Occur During Mind Wandering.”  Psychological Science, in press,