A nice science article in the Times discussing (and defending!) the virtues of the wandering mind.

In the past, daydreaming was often considered a failure of mental discipline, or worse. Freud labeled it infantile and neurotic. Psychology textbooks warned it could lead to psychosis. Neuroscientists complained that the rogue bursts of activity on brain scans kept interfering with their studies of more important mental functions.

But now that researchers have been analyzing those stray thoughts, they’ve found daydreaming to be remarkably common — and often quite useful. A wandering mind can protect you from immediate perils and keep you on course toward long-term goals. Sometimes daydreaming is counterproductive, but sometimes it fosters creativity and helps you solve problems.


I daydream all the time almost constantly.  Indeed, I frequently find myself wandering along three or four different mental tracks simultaneously, often with some piece of musick running through my head as well.  I believe it’s an internal defense mechanism against boredom, since a) I get bored very, very easily and b) I hates being bored.

I believe it’s also the reason I blog the way I do, preferring a sort of ad hoc, conversational approach to a more formal structure, and simply sounding off on whatever happens to seize my attention at any given time, rayther than attempting to focus on one particular topic.   (If I were to go with the latter approach, I would undoubtedly get quite bored with that quite quickly.)   For whatever physiological reason (discussed somewhat in the article), having the ability to throw out these asides when they come to me actually helps me focus on whatever more important task I happen to have at hand.