A small portion of new studies began to help understand why our thoughts stray. Why is it that as you are reading an article online your thoughts quite often begin to think about something other than what you are reading? Researchers believe that by understanding this they will be able to help prevent it and help students with their studies and people overall, such as with their driving.
One psychologist, Michael Kane, at the University of North Carolina did a study for a week that recorded the thoughts of students eight random times a day. Surprisingly, and probably a little embarrassing for the students, the study showed the 30 percent of the time the students were not thinking about what they were actually doing. Although 30 percent was the over all average of the 126 students that participated in the study, some students had their thoughts focused on something other than what they were doing between 80 and 90 percent of the time. The study was recorded when the students heard a beep from a device that they were given to carry around and then discussed their thoughts.
“A lot of what they’re reporting is … mental to-do lists,” Kane also reported, “If you want to understand people’s mental lives, this is a phenomenon we ought to be thinking about.”
Some may argue to say that this is unimportant information to study, thought wandering is completely harmless. It can be completely harmless however it can also be fatal. Car accidents are among things that can happen when someone takes their concentration away from what they are doing.
Another study conducted by Jonathan Schooler of the University of British Columbia showed that people’s minds had thoughts other than what they were reading about 15 to 20 percent of the time. Schooler and his colleagues studied students as they read passages from books, one example being War and Peace. When the students found that their thoughts were wandering they pushed a button, Schooler noted that this happened regularly, “we regularly catch people’s minds wandering before they’ve noticed it themselves,”
On a positive note Kane believes that mind wandering can promote creativity.
“It’s unconstrained, it can go anywhere, which is sort of the perfect situation for creative thought,” Kane also stated, mentioning that there are exception to when mind wandering is not appropriate, “Mind-wandering is probably more often helpful than harmful,”
I am wondering how many times your thoughts strayed as you were reading this article.