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Does your mind wander while performing daily tasks?

Categories: Science & Technology

daydreaming-businesswoman-istock-584.jpgA new study has found a link between the ability to juggle thoughts within a person's working memory and the likelihood of a person's thoughts to wander off. (iStockphoto)

If you're having trouble reading the entirety of this article without your mind wandering off, it might actually be a good thing.

Just stay with us for a moment. According to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science, people whose minds wander during minor tasks have a greater amount of working memory.

University of Wisconsin-Madison News describes working memory as "a sort of a mental workspace that allows you to juggle multiple thoughts simultaneously."

The report was written by the university's Daniel Levinson and Richard Davidson, as well as Dr. Jonathan Smallwood of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany.

Working memory allows you to plan your day in the morning while simultaneously doing everyday tasks such as brushing your teeth, making coffee and breakfast and picking what to wear.

Researchers measured test subjects' working memories by asking them to perform simple tasks such as pressing a button when a certain letter appears on a screen. Researchers checked in periodically to ask the subjects how often their minds began to wander off from these menial tasks.

"We intentionally use tasks that will never use all of their attention," Smallwood said, "and then we ask, how do people use their idle resources?"

While working memory has previously been linked to other measures of intelligence such as reading comprehension and IQ scores, this is the first to study the relation between working memory and a person's inclination for wandering thoughts.

The study doesn't mean that anyone with larger resources of working memory is automatically scatter-brained, however. "If your priority is to keep attention on task, you can use working memory to do that, too," Levinson told the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

How often does your mind wander while performing basic or daily tasks? Does a wandering mind prevent you from properly focusing on your work, or are you able to handle your working memory capacity? Share your thoughts - as many as you can distill, that is - in the comments section below.


(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)

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