image by Anca Mosoiu

What is daydreaming?

Do you have students who daydream?  Why do they do it?

Well, that probably varies a little among individuals, but a report in Scientific American gave us some answers.

Daydreaming is your brain putting its excess power to good use.  What does that mean?

Well, think of your brain as an engine that wants to stay running at a high rpm. When you are doing something challenging, it is running at full capacity.  However, when you start doing something mundane, it has to idle.  Then, you start to daydream.

In other words, when you daydream, your brain is staying active by daydreaming since whatever it is you are really doing is not keeping it activated.  It has a purpose.

The researchers ran two tests on a group of subjects.  The first test was in order to see how much a person’s mind wanders (daydreaming)  while doing a simple task,  in this case pressing a button when they saw a certain letter on a computer screen.  The second test was to see how much working memory each person had, which was a simple memory test.

The results are interesting.  As they put it:

It turns out that those with a larger working memory capacity reported more distraction during the task. Indicating that our working memory strives to work at capacity. Such subjects had greater focus when tested with more complicated tasks.

What does that tell us?  If you are daydreaming, it means that you are not being challenged enough perhaps.  It also is not a sign of anything unusual, detrimental, or particularly bad.

So . . . for teachers, what does that mean?  In my opinion, four things.

1.  Daydreaming is not a bad thing nor should it be discouraged.

2.  The daydreamers are probably, in fact, your more intelligent students.

3.  The daydreamers in your class probably need more challenges in their education.

4.  If most of your class is daydreaming, you are doing something wrong.  Make your lesson more cooperative exciting, or challenging.


Take a look at the whole article on Scientific American.  It’s worth the time.