In the classic daydreaming motif, we watch as a distracted child stares longingly out of a window while their teacher lectures in front of the class. And while the prevailing thinking behind this iconic image held that these youthful diversions adversely affected academic performance, recent studies are beginning to suggest otherwise. In attempting to uncover the anatomy of an epiphany, researchers are finding that a wandering mind might actually foster greater insight.

Though it may come as little surprise that our brain states are fundamentally different when thinking through problems analytically versus waiting for an ‘aha' moment, brain-scans reveal that these idle moments are when our minds are most actively engaged and therefore better equipped to envision novel solutions. Kalina Christoff, a neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, suspects that the spider-webbing of unfocused thought traps ideas and unexpected associations more effectively than methodical reasoning.

PSFK provides access to this article and every report, case-study, interview, and analysis that we publish for our members. PSFK Professional Membership also unlocks accessto unlimited customized research assistance and our database of over 100,000 insights on innovation trendspanning across eight industry sectors—from culture and brand to retail and customer experience.
Already a members? Log in