Sunday, February 15, 2015

Daydreaming has amnesiac effect and a way to explore inner experiences

Daydreaming is something we all do.  We look back to something that stood out for us, then when we "wake up," we find we struggle for a few moments to"wake up" and remember what we were doing just before the daydream. That behavior of not remembering for a short period of time after a daydream is common.

As children, when we were caught daydreaming, it was then the teacher would ask us what the class had been discussing.  And we cannot remember.  Now we know the reason why.

What scientists have found is that the further the distance from the actual episode, that is when the target of the daydream occurred, the more difficult it is to remember what you were doing just before that daydream. So if you were remembering your wonderful Christmas in June, it is likely it would be harder to remember the topic of your lesson than if you were daydreaming about the great time you had playing ball yesterday.

Contextual cues are  the keys to remembering, as psychologists have known for awhile.  When an individual leaves that context, it becomes harder to remember what happened.

Daydreaming, it has been found, can block memories to the recent past.  That is why trying to remember what you were doing at the time the daydream occurred is a bit of a struggle.

 Psychological scientists Peter F. Delaney and Lili Sahakyan of the University of North Carolina at Greens boro and Colleen M. Kelley and Carissa A. Zimmerman of Florida State University investigated whether the actual content of the daydreams impacts one's ability to access a recently-acquired memory.

The experiment involved study participants being asked to look at a list of words, then think about something they had done or where they had been that morning.  Those same participants were given the same type of test and afterward asked to remember something they had done a few weeks before.

Results showed subjects of the study were able to remember words better after recalling something that had happened just hours before as  opposed to something that had happened weeks earlier.

The study was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.  The results remain a valuable part of understanding why we daydream and what happens when we do and some of the immediate recall that may be lost at the time.

"If there's something you don't feel like thinking about, you're better off remembering a more distant event than a close event, to try to put it out of your mind for a while," said Delaney, offering the summary that explains the research outcomes.. "It can help you feel like you're in a different situation." That's a good way for people who want to forget about something.

How common are daydreams?  Psychologists have found that 96% of us daydream at least once daily.
So the impact of these daydreams can be important in our reaction with others.  The purpose, researchers have concluded, it helps us explore our inner experiences and can be the foundation of how we develop certain moral values.  We may be contemplating solutions for certain moral dilemmas and then forget what the people around us may have said while we were daydreaming.  

The wife that asks the husband, "Did you hear what I said?" And the husband's response, "Yeh." might be a diversion that allows the husband to locate a context, a clue so that he can answer without letting his wife know he was daydreaming about something important to him and perhaps making some moral decision..

What might that mean for those children in the classroom?  It depends on what they daydream about and when.  The baseball game that happened yesterday may not interfere with recalling the elements of the lesson the teacher introduced, whereas the new catcher's mitt and baseball bat in a daydream about Christmas of several months ago, may bring that startled reaction from little Jimmy and the laugh from everyone else.

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