We all use the term casually, likely to excuse our attention spans when we’re tired, bored, or removed from a situation for some reason. We’ve all experienced the sensation, a slight displacement from reality without really falling off.
We All Do it, but What Exactly Are We Doing?
The psychological perspective of why we daydream and what causes it is a little bit different than our cavalier staring out the window moment as we imagine what we’ll have for lunch.
The Default Network
Daydreaming is more than a pastime of the mind, or simply being bored.
Scientists have discovered that a specific part of the brain referred to as the “default” network links the frontal cortex, limbic system, and other parts of the brain that deal with sensory experience.
This network can activate itself and generate its stimulation and is scientifically referred to as “stimulus-independent thought.” When these thoughts are not driven in our consciousness, they essentially wander or daydream.
What Our Daydreams Can Tell Us
A provocative study conducted by York University suggests that the contents of our daydreams may be an indication of our inner feelings regarding our relationships and satisfaction levels.
It surveyed men and women from ages 18-85 to collect data on the frequency and vividness of their episodes, life satisfaction, levels of loneliness, and accessible social support. The study concluded that for men, frequent daydreams meant lower satisfaction in life.
Alternatively, for women, vividness was an indication of lower satisfaction as opposed to frequency. For both respective genders, those who experienced daydreams with people close to them were more satisfied in life. As opposed to those who experienced daydreams of people who were not close to them or fictional, indicating a lower life satisfaction.
Daydreaming and Memory
According to a study conducted by psychologist Peter Delaney and colleagues, students were requested to daydream about one of two things. A scenario in which they are doing exactly or similar to what they were doing at the moment, or something completely different.
Students who daydreamed about scenarios unlike the one they were experiencing were concluded to have weaker memory than those who did the opposite.
Another study concluded that daydreaming could not only affect memory, but explicitly daydreaming about something distant can have even more of an effect on impairing memory.
What might this say about consciousness and the remaining present? It seems daydreaming might be a sign that your consciousness is not firmly rooted in what is happening in front of you. It can potentially affect your ability to engage with your surroundings in the most effective way possible.
They say our dreams can tell us quite a bit, don’t forget that includes your daydreams. Consciousness is only a few thoughts, and perhaps some extra resources away.