Good news! “Zoning out” a crucial mental state

  • Stop Paying Attention: Zoning Out Is a Crucial Mental State – “When our minds wander, we lose touch with the outside world [...] we are more likely to make mistakes, fail to encode memories, or miss a connection. [...] [Scientists] tested the effect of zoning out by having a test group read a Sherlock Holmes mystery in which a villain used a pseudonym. As people were reading the passages discussing this fact, the researchers checked their state of attentiveness. Just 30 percent of the people who were zoning out at the key moments could give the villain’s pseudonym, while 61 percent of the people who weren’t zoning out at those moments succeeded. [...] The regions of the brain that become active during mind wandering belong to two important networks: [the executive control system, and the default network.]“

Both of these networks are used for thinking about goal directed behavior and the future. The article suggests that mind-wandering may lead to those Eureka!-like moments of spontaneous insight that may not occur when attentive to the present.