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The Dynamic Duo: Imagination + Knowledge

Study confirms robust daydreaming and superior intelligence are connected.

Isn't it great when a study confirms what you already suspected? There's a significant correlation between robust daydreaming and superior intelligence.

Researchers using brain scanning technology found that the "default network," the relatively new buzzword for the daydreaming state, was significantly more active in the "superior intelligence group" than the "average intelligence group." According to the study, this suggests that the stronger connections displayed in the "functional integration of the default network might be related to individual intelligent performance."

My nonscientific translation of this: while daydreaming, your thoughts are gliding and ricocheting all over the place--past, present, future--accessing all your stored knowledge, memories, experiences, etc. What the study seems to be saying is that these connections--the ricocheting thoughts if you will--appear to be stronger in smarter people. Maybe that's why they can get more out of their daydreaming states of mind. They can dig deeper. This seems to fit nicely with other studies that say that people who can go deeper into daydreaming states are more likely to come away with worthwhile insights.

EinsteinAt its simplest, daydreaming (or mind wandering, if you prefer that term) is just another information-processing system but a highly creative one. Ideas and associations seem to come to us from nowhere, but they are not a bolt from the blue so much as a bolt from the stew--the stew of knowledge and experience you've been slow-cooking over the years but which you are now able to link together in novel ways courtesy of daydreaming.

Many brilliant individuals--from Einstein to Mozart--credit their imagination as the source of their creativity and genius. Einstein often compared his creative process to that of poets and musicians, describing his insights as "a sudden rapture." He famously said: "When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge."

Of course all the knowledge has to be there to tap into and later the hard work has to be done. But to make the connections--that takes imagination and vision. Without imagination, knowledge would just be a set of facts and figures going nowhere.

This adds to the argument that it's worthwhile to cultivate and examine your daydreaming state of mind, especially in terms of problem-solving and innovation. Figure out when you do your best daydreaming and build it into your schedule. Probably the best and easiest way to trigger daydreaming is to start walking. Give your mind time to roam and see what new connections you can make. If anyone gives you a hard time, tell them that Einstein did his best thinking while taking long, rambling walks (often getting lost in the process!). And let's quit badgering people and children for being daydreamers. At the very least, daydreaming is a natural thought process; at its best--it's probably our greatest hope for breakthrough thinking.

© Amy Fries
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About the Author

Amy Fries

Amy Fries is a writer and editor. She is the author of Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers.