- Wandering Mind is a Sign of Good Working Memory, New Study Suggests -

By Helen Holmes republished on December 30, 2017

 Do you always find yourself unconsciously diverting thoughts while in the middle of usual routines like taking a bath, eating breakfast, and commuting to work? Contrary to the popular belief, wandering mind is an indication that you have a good working memory, a new study suggests.

Wandering Mind – Good or Bad?

Do you know that an average person can retain focus on one thing for 6-11 seconds only? Before, it used to be 11-20 seconds but experts believe that because of the social pressure, drug damage, and chronic television-viewing – this has dropped down. So even if you really love what you’re thinking about, you will have to make an effort to go back to it. But for people with good working memory, mind wandering doesn’t affect their activities. That means they can do well in a certain task even if their mind keeps wandering away.

In a research conducted by Daniel Levinson and Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Jonathan Smallwood at Switzerland’s Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science, it was revealed that people whose minds wander often have high working memory. This is somewhat contradictory to what many of us believe. For some people, wandering mind means lack of focus.

The Study

To come up with the results, the researchers asked a group of people, aged 18 to 65, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison community to perform very simple tasks. Some were asked to press a button every time they took a breath while others were asked to click their mouse every time a letter pops up on their computer screen. Throughout the activity, the researchers asked the participants whether they’re keeping their minds on the task or they’re wandering. Later, the participants went through a memory working test were asked to mention letters that they remember. When analysing the results, the researchers noticed that those who indicated that their minds wandered. The study was published in the Journal Psychological Science.

According to Smallwood, the research suggests that when the task isn’t very difficult, people who have good working memory are able to think of things other than what they’re doing. But still, they are able to maintain their focus.

Improving Concentration and Focus

People who have low working memory tend to shift their minds from the task at hand without consciously knowing it. For instance, a person can read several pages of a book without actually comprehending it or he can go to another place without having any recollection of the actual trip. Even those who have good working memory may also experience lack of focus. There are times that our thoughts simply scatter and our minds would race from one thing to another. But the good news is – we can all improve our level of concentration. Here’s the thing. Improving concentration is like learning a skill. When you keep on practising, you will get better. Next, apply the ‘BE HERE NOW’ strategy. Once you noticed that your thoughts are starting to wander away, just tell yourself ‘be here now’ and slowly go back to the task on hand.

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