Saturday, February 4, 2012

Is a "Wandering Mind" a Bad Thing?


I get some of my best ideas when I wake up early and can lie in bed for a time and just let my mind roam freely. I've been this way for as long as I can remember. Are you like this? When do you get your best ideas?


Yesterday, I read a very interesting TIME magazine piece by Annie Murphy Paul, "Why Morning Routines Are Creativity Killers" that explained why this happens. Murphy cites research that suggests "that imaginative insights are most likely to come to us when we’re groggy and unfocused. The mental processes that inhibit distracting or irrelevant thoughts are at their weakest in these moments, allowing unexpected and sometimes inspired connections to be made."

She points out that this research seems to indicate the discursive attentional focus of sleepy people may cause them to subconsciously broaden their search of their personal knowledge base, thus leading to an increase in creative problem solving.

You can, and should, read the entire article here.

I wonder if there are implications here regarding the effect that working with a background distraction, such as music softly playing or the ambient noises of a coffee shop, may stimulate creativity in certain individuals. Personally, I seem to be more creative in circumstances like those than I am when working in a totally quiet environment. And, if so, what does this mean for teaching and learning?

BTW, I have enjoyed many of  Annie Murphy Paul's TIME articles and would strongly recommend you consider following her on Twitter at @anniemurphypaul.


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