Sharper minds: Children who are constantly distracted are able to hold far more information than their diligent peers
People whose minds wander might actually have sharper brains.
A study shows that those who appear to be constantly distracted in fact have more ‘working memory’, giving them the ability to do two things at the same time.
Participants in the study had to either press a button in response to the appearance of a certain letter on a screen, or tap in time with their breath. The researchers checked periodically to ask if their minds were wandering.
At the end, they measured the participants’ working memory capacity, giving them a score for their ability to remember a series of letters interspersed with easy maths questions.
Daniel Levinson, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said those with higher working memory capacity reported ‘more mind wandering during these simple tasks’ even though their performance was not compromised.
The results of his research, published online in Psychological Science, are the first to show the association with mind wandering and intelligence.
It is thought the extra mental workspace is used, for instance, when adding up two spoken numbers without being able to write them down.
Its capacity has been associated with general measures of intelligence, such as reading comprehension and IQ score.
The latest study underscores how important working memory is in allowing the brain to focus on the most pressing issues.