Monday, March 26, 2007

Krashen on mind-wandering

Sent to the Taipei Times, March 23, 2007.

It seems that most scientists who study why our mind
wanders assume it is a bad thing ("Scientists explore
the 'wanders' of the human mind," March 23).

Sometimes it is a bad thing, but often it isn't.
Creativity research consistently shows that
"incubation," some quiet time in which the thinker is
not concerned with the problem at hand, helps
problem-solving. Piaget, for example, went for walks
when faced with hard problems in his work and Einstein
played his violin. Both found that solutions came
easily after a short period of relaxation. Research
also shows that good thinkers actually schedule in
"idle time" after periods of hard work.

When the mind wanders, in at least some cases, it may
be because the mind needs to "incubate" over a
problem. Artificially forcing the thinker to stay
"focused," without allowing incubation, might inhibit
creative thinking.

Remember when you were staring at the ceiling in
elementary school, and the teacher asked you whether
the answer was on the ceiling? Maybe it was.

Stephen Krashen


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