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Psychologists have long hypothesized that daydreaming (i.e. engaging in stimulus-independent, task-unrelated thoughts and images) may facilitate creativity, but evidence for this hypothesis has been mixed. We propose that, to fully understand the relationship between daydreaming and creativity, it is essential to distinguish between different creative processes as well as between alternative styles of daydreaming. A prominent distinction in creativity research is that between analytic problem solving, which involves incremental and largely conscious processes, and insight, which is characterized by the spontaneity with which an idea springs to mind. In this aspect, insight resembles daydreaming. Indeed, recent evidence has linked daydreaming to creative performance. But like creativity, daydreaming is a multifaceted concept. Daydreams vary in style and content, a fact that is receiving little attention in contemporary research. Not all kinds of daydreaming are likely to have the same effects on creativity. We discuss different factors prevalent in people’s daydreaming, such as mood, attentional focus, and intentionality, and consider how these factors may be related to creative processes. We further discuss implications for ways to enhance creativity through deliberate daydreaming practice.
published: 02 February 2016
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02063
Edited by:
Carola Salvi,
Northwestern University, USA
Reviewed by:
Kalina Christoff,
University of British Columbia,
Gregoire Borst,
Université Paris Descartes, France
Claire M. Zedelius
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 21 August 2015
Accepted: 31 December 2015
Published: 02 February 2016
Zedelius CM and Schooler JW (2016)
The Richness of Inner Experience:
Relating Styles of Daydreaming
to Creative Processes.
Front. Psychol. 6:2063.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02063
The Richness of Inner Experience:
Relating Styles of Daydreaming to
Creative Processes
Claire M. Zedelius*and Jonathan W. Schooler
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
Psychologists have long hypothesized that daydreaming (i.e., engaging in stimulus-
independent, task-unrelated thoughts and images) may facilitate creativity, but evidence
for this hypothesis has been mixed. We propose that, to fully understand the relationship
between daydreaming and creativity, it is essential to distinguish between different
creative processes as well as between alternative styles of daydreaming. A prominent
distinction in creativity research is that between analytic problem solving, which involves
incremental and largely conscious processes, and insight, which is characterized by
the spontaneity with which an idea springs to mind. In this aspect, insight resembles
daydreaming. Indeed, recent evidence has linked daydreaming to creative performance.
But like creativity, daydreaming is a multifaceted concept. Daydreams vary in style and
content, a fact that is receiving little attention in contemporary research. Not all kinds of
daydreaming are likely to have the same effects on creativity. We discuss different factors
prevalent in people’s daydreaming, such as mood, attentional focus, and intentionality,
and consider how these factors may be related to creative processes. We further
discuss implications for ways to enhance creativity through deliberate daydreaming
Keywords: daydreaming, mind wandering, imagination, creativity, insight
Creativity and mental imagery are closely entwined. Creative ideas and individuals are often
described as “imaginative,” perhaps based on the popular notion that coming up with novel
ideas relies on the ability to mentally simulate things that are not (yet) present—we imagine
potential futures and explore “what if ” questions (Moulton and Kosslyn, 2009;Dietrich
and Haider, 2014). Common forms of imagination are daydreaming and mind wandering.
Daydreaming entails engaging in spontaneous thoughts unrelated to one’s current context
(i.e., stimulus-independent), and mind wandering has been defined as daydreaming occuring
while performing another task (Singer and Schonbar, 1961;Smallwood and Schooler, 2006).
It is compelling that daydreaming may facilitate creativity, and there are countless anecdotes
of ideas having emerged from daydreams. However, one can easily come up with many
examples of creative ideas that resulted from task-focused thought. In the present article,
we explore the relationship between daydreaming and creativity, and formulate hypotheses
about the mechanisms through which different types of daydreaming facilitate creative
Psychologists have long speculated about the role of daydreaming in creativity. Singer and
Schonbar (1961;alsoSinger and Antrobus, 1963) proposed that daydreaming is associated
Frontiers in Psychology | 1February 2016 | Volume 6 | Article 2063
Zedelius and Schooler Styles of Daydreaming
with creative exploration and expression. Shepard (1978) and
Flowers and Garbin (1989) postulated that daydreaming
facilitates the formation of novel associations and the
recombination of mental images, which can be a source of
creative ideas. They attributed this to the fact that during
daydreaming one’s imagination is relatively undisturbed by
stimulation from the environment. Other perspectives suggest
a different way in which daydreaming may benefit creativity.
Daydreams typically revolve around current goals (Klinger and
Cox, 1987;Klinger, 2009, 2013;Smallwood et al., 2009;Baird
et al., 2011;Poerio et al., 2015). When confronted with a problem
or obstacle to a goal, daydreaming might help generate creative
Research has supported the theorized benefit of stimulus-
independent thought for creativity. It was found that taking
a break from consciously working on a creative problem and
engaging in an unrelated task improves subsequent creativity, a
phenomenon termed incubation (see Sio and Ormerod, 2009).
Moreover, Baird et al. (2012) found that incubation is enhanced
by engaging in undemanding tasks that leave room for mind
wandering. Baird et al. (2012) had participants generate unusual
uses for common objects. Participants assigned to perform an
undemanding (vs. demanding) task during a break subsequently
generated more, and more unique uses. (They also reported
greater mind wandering). Importantly, the effect was specific
to objects encountered before the break, suggesting, in line
with Flowers and Garbin (1989), that mind wandering had a
transformative impact on participants’ representations of task-
relevant information.
Additional findings suggested that frequent mind wandering
is associated with increased creativity (Baird et al., 2012)and
greater engagement in creative activities (Baas, 2015). Other
research suggested that individuals higher in fantasy proneness,
a tendency toward long and intense involvement in fantasies
(Singer and Antrobus, 1972;Singer, 1975;Lynn and Rhue,
1986), are also more creative (Lynn and Rhue, 1986). While the
processes underlying these trait-level correlations are somewhat
unclear, they lend support to the idea that imagination and
creativity are related.
In contrast, other research suggests an advantage of controlled
and focused thought. For instance, Ostafin and Kassman (2012)
found a positive relationship between creativity and mindful
awareness, which they operationalized in opposition to mind
wandering (Mrazek et al., 2012). According to Ostafin and
Kassman (2012), a mindful focus on present moment experience
enables individuals to suppress habitual associations, which
often are not particularly creative (Ostafin and Kassman, 2012).
Even Flowers and Garbin (1989) reserved a role for controlled,
externally focused thought for creativity, arguing that it could aid
in the strategic transformation of unconsciously generated ideas.
In trying to reconcile these seemingly contradicting perspectives,
we (Zedelius and Schooler, 2015) have argued that creativity
should be understood as encompassing several distinct processes.
A prominent division between creative processes is that between
insight and analytic problem solving. In the literature, various
aspects of insight have been highlighted, including a state of
understanding (Smith, 1995), as well as cognitive processes
such as the selective encoding, combination, or restructuring
of information, which typically precede insights (Sternberg and
Davidson, 1983;Metcalfe and Wiebe, 1987;Davidson, 1995).
Another important aspect is the experience of having an insight.
Insights are characterized by the spontaneity with which an
idea or solution comes to mind, seemingly out of nowhere, and
accompanied by an “Aha!” or “Eureka!” moment (Mednick, 1962;
Beeman et al., 1994;Schooler and Melcher, 1995;Kounios et al.,
2008). Research suggests that insight experiences are the result
of unconscious associative processing (e.g., Fiore and Schooler,
2001;Bolte and Goschke, 2005;Bowden et al., 2005).
In contrast, analytic thought involves consciously and
systematically searching for an idea or solution and rejecting
inadequate ideas (Ericsson and Simon, 1993;Kounios et al.,
2008). This process progresses incrementally, with continuous
awareness of the steps in the search process that lead to a
solution (Metcalfe, 1986;Schooler and Melcher, 1995;Weisberg,
1995). Insight and non-insight processes also differ in their
verbalizability, the former being less readily communicated in
words (Schooler and Melcher, 1995) and consequently more
vulnerable to verbal overshadowing by thinking out loud
(Schooler et al., 1993).
Researchers have sometimes studied insight and analytic
thought by comparing the processes involved in solving so-
called “insight problems” to those involved in non-creative tasks
(e.g., Ansburg and Hill, 2003;Ostafin and Kassman, 2012). This
conveys the implicit assumption that only processes that lead
to insights are creative. However, while analytic thought can be
useful for non-creative tasks, it is also often used to solve insight
problems, to generate novel and useful ideas or find uncommon
solutions to creative problems (e.g., Weisberg, 1986;MacGregor
et al., 2001;Bowden et al., 2005). The same could be argued for
insight. While insight is typically studied in creative tasks, the
experience of a solution suddenly bursting into consciousness
may also occur in non-creative tasks, such as searching for a
specific target in the environment (see Snodgrass et al., 1995;
Smilek et al., 2006a,b). Thus, while analytic thought, and perhaps
also insight, can be used for non-creative problem solving, they
both can be used for attaining creative ideas or solutions. For
this reason, we think that insight and analytic thought can be
compared and contrasted as alternative creative processes.
To examine how insight and analytic thought relate to mind
wandering (or its opposing construct mindful awareness), we
performed two studies (Zedelius and Schooler, 2015)inwhich
participants solved remote associate problems (verbal puzzles
which require combining words to form compound words
or phrases; Mednick, 1962;Bowden and Jung-Beeman, 2003;
Kounios and Beeman, 2009). To differentiate between creative
processes, participants were asked to report if they had solved
each problem through insight or analytically (Study 1), or were
instructed to approach problems with an insightful or analytic
strategy (Study 2). To assess differences in mind wandering or
mindful awareness (treated as opposite ends of a continuum),
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Zedelius and Schooler Styles of Daydreaming
we used the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (Brown and
Ryan, 2003), which measures the tendency for attentional lapses.
The results showed that a greater disposition toward mind
wandering was associated with increased insight solving, while a
greater tendency toward mindful awareness was associated with
increased analytic solving.
We speculated that individuals high in mindful awareness
may not rely as much on unconscious associative processes
when attempting to solve creative problems, but more on
conscious, controlled thought (see also Remmers et al., 2014).
This account is consistent with Flowers and Garbin’s (1989)
notion that daydreaming benefits creativity through associative
thought. Another possibility is that the very process of directing
attention inwardly and blending out external information, a
process characteristic of mind wandering (Smallwood et al., 2008,
2011), is itself facilitative of creative insights. Research has found
that, just prior to attaining a solution through insight, individuals
show increased brain activity in the midfrontal and anterior
cingulate cortex, areas associated with the ability to block out
task-irrelevant information. In contrast, analytic solutions are
preceded by heightened activity in the visual cortex (Kounios
et al., 2006;seealsoJung-Beeman et al., 2004). These findings may
suggest that blocking out input from the environment facilitates
insight. Corroborating evidence for this comes from a recent
study by Salvi et al. (2015) showing that frequent eye-blinking,
which had previously been linked to creative idea generation
(Chermahini and Hommel, 2010;Ueda et al., 2015)aswellas
mind wandering (Smilek et al., 2010) was associated with solving
creative problems with insight. Specifically, it was found that
more frequent blinking while problems were visually displayed to
participants predicted insight solutions as compared to analytic
solutions. Participants also looked away from the problems more
before insight compared to analytic solusions. Thus, there is
evidence that shifting to an internal focus of attention, such as
during daydreaming, increases the likelihood of insights.
Admittedly, insight and analytic thought are only two among
many creative thought processes, and future research needs to
relate daydreaming to other processes that play a role in creative
performance and artistic creativity.
As with creativity, daydreaming, too, is not a unitary concept.
Daydreams can differ in thought content, affective tone, and style
of thinking. Therefore, to understand the relationship between
daydreaming and creativity, it is essential to differentiate between
styles of daydreaming. Pioneering work by Singer and Schonbar
(1961),Singer and Antrobus (1963, 1970),Huba et al. (1981)
and later Giambra (1980, 1989, 1995) laid the groundwork for
discerning different daydreaming styles. They identified three
broad styles: (1) positive-constructive daydreaming,whichis
characterized by pleasant thoughts, vivid imagery, planning,
and interpersonal curiosity, (2) guilty-dysphoric daydreaming,
which is characterized by unpleasant emotions such as guilt,
fear of failure, and aggressive inclinations, and finally (3) poor
attentional control, which is characterized by fleeting daydreams
and general difficulty focusing attention on internal or external
events (Singer and Antrobus, 1963;Singer, 1975).
Singer and Schonbar (1961) and Singer (1975) speculated that
these daydreaming styles might be differentially related creativity,
and indeed a study by Zhiyan and Singer (1996) showed that
positive-constructive daydreaming was related to openness to
experience, a trait associated with creativity. However, this
finding is indirect at best. Moreover, the research classified
daydreaming styles purely based on thought content.Wethink
that it is fruitful to examine other aspects that may define styles
of daydreaming and are known or speculated to be related to
creative processes.
An aspect extensively studied in relation to creativity is mood
(see Baas et al., 2008). There is evidence that positive mood
enhances cognitive flexibility, and thereby benefits creativity (e.g.,
Isen et al., 1987;Isen, 1990;Murray et al., 1990;Ashby et al.,
1999;Dreisbach and Goschke, 2004;De Dreu et al., 2008). Based
on this literature, daydreaming styles associated with positive
mood should benefit creativity. However, a more nuanced picture
emerges when differentiating between creative processes. Studies
have shown that positive mood specifically benefits insight, but
not necessarily analytic problem solving (Subramaniam et al.,
2009). Moreover, there is evidence that negative mood can
increase creativity through a different route. Negative mood is
often interpreted as a signal that one’s current state is discrepant
from one’s desired state. This promotes an analytic information
processing style and increased effort recruitment (Schwarz and
Bless, 1991;Bolte et al., 2003). Persistent systematic effort, in turn,
can yield highly creative output (De Dreu et al., 2008). Thus,
while positive mood facilitates creativity by increasing insight,
negative mood can enhance creativity through analytic thought
and persistence.
Findings from experience sampling studies suggest that
daydreaming, compared to being focused on the present, is often
associated with negative mood (Killingsworth and Gilbert, 2010).
This was true when participants reported negative or neutral
thoughts, and even when they reported positive thoughts their
mood was no better than when they were on-task. There are,
however, exceptions to this finding. Daydreams experienced as
highly interesting (Franklin et al., 2013), and positive mind
wandering during unpleasant activities (Spronken et al., 2015)
have been associated with positive mood. Moreover, daydreams
with social content and involving close others are associated
with increased happiness (Poerio et al., 2015). Thus, we expect
that interesting or positive daydreams (especially when they take
the mind off unpleasant activities) and daydreams about social
relationships should facilitating creative insights.
Next to thought content and valence, daydreaming is defined
by styles of thinking. One well-studied style of thinking that
tends to occupy some people’s daydreams is rumination, or
repetitive, self-referential thought. A consequence of rumination
is a narrowed focus of attention (Whitmer and Gotlib, 2013;Grol
et al., 2015). Research has associated a narrow focus of attention
with reduced creativity (e.g., Kasof, 1997). More recent studies
suggest that this applies particularly when creative problems
are approached insightfully, not when approached analytically.
For instance, Wegbreit et al. (2014) manipulated participants’
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Zedelius and Schooler Styles of Daydreaming
attentional focus by having them perform a task that either
required attending to a broad space, or to focus attention
narrowly. The broad focus task led to increased insight solutions
in a subsequent creativity task, while the narrow focus task led to
more analytic solutions. Based on this research, we predict that a
ruminative daydreaming style with a narrow focus of attention
impedes creative insights, but may improve creativity through
analytic thought.
Another factor that may moderate the relationship between
daydreaming and creativity is intentionality (see also Forster
and Lavie, 2009;McMillan et al., 2013;Dorsch, 2014;Seli
et al., 2014). Spontaneous stimulus-independent thoughts often
arise unintentionally and without awareness (e.g., Schooler,
2002;Schooler and Schreiber, 2004;Schooler et al., 2011;Baird
et al., 2013). However, creative individuals sometimes deliberately
engage in daydreaming, because they believe their daydreams
to be a source of inspiration. Few studies directly speak to
this hypothesis, but it is reasonable to expect that unintentional
and deliberate daydreaming are dominated by different types
of thought. For instance, deliberate daydreaming may be more
structured than unintentional daydreaming and more narrowly
focused on personal goals (including creative goals), which
should associate it with an analytic thinking style. In contrast,
unintentional daydreaming may be characterized more by the
kind of associative processing thought to facilitate insight.
Other differences between deliberate and unintentional
daydreaming may lead to different predictions. It seems probable
that unintentional daydreaming is more likely to involve
negative, ruminative thought, while deliberate daydreaming
involves more positive thoughts. If this were the case, we
would predict deliberate daydreaming to spark creative insights
more than unintentional daydreaming, a prediction that runs
counter to the one discussed before. More research is needed to
examine this possibility. This research should take into account
people’s motives, which may moderate the effects of deliberate
daydreaming. For instance, chronic ruminators often report that
they deliberately engage in ruminative thought, because they
believe it to be helpful for gaining self-knowledge (Lyubomirsky
and Nolen-Hoeksema, 1993;Papageorgiou and Wells, 2003;
Smallwood et al., 2003;Simpson and Papageorgiou, 2004). For
them, deliberate daydreaming may be structured, goal-directed,
and negative, and hence associated with analytic thinking.
Individuals with a stronger motive for mood-repair, on the other
hand, may deliberately wander off to pleasant daydreams that put
them in a good mood, and facilitate creative insight.
The issue of intentional daydreaming raises an interesting
question: if some styles of daydreaming are more conducive
to creativity than others, can we improve creative performance
by deliberately engaging in those styles of imagination? A few
studies have used instructed imagination in interventions for
increasing creativity, specifically creative writing. Long and
Hiebert (1985) developed visualization exercises encouraging
students to vividly imagine memories and current experiences
and let these images “trigger” further images. After three weekly
sessions of such training (compared to a control training in
which students listened to and wrote stories), students’ creative
writing improved. Jampole et al. (1994;seealsoJampole et al.,
1991) developed a similar intervention, which included specific
instructions such as mentally manipulating the appearance of
objects and imagining traveling to different locations. Again,
compared to students in a control condition who only engaged
in reading and writing exercises, students who participated in the
imagination intervention wrote more original stories.
Following a similar approach, future studies could compare
creativity-related effects of instructions encouraging different
types of daydreaming. Do instructions that promote positive
or interesting daydreams lead to greater creativity? How
about instructions that invoke a broad versus narrow focus
of attention? Can people learn to invoke different types of
daydreaming dependent on the creative task? Perhaps broad
positive daydreams are more helpful for tasks that require
reconceptualization, whereas narrowly defined critical reflection
facilitates fleshing out details of ideas. To date, little attention
has been paid to distinguishing daydreaming styles at the state
level. Given that creativity can be achieved through distinct
routes, flexibly invoking the daydreaming style that fits the
situation seems a fruitful approach for enhancing creative
To summarize, our goal was to illuminate the relationship
between daydreaming and creativity by considering the different
creative processes that benefit from daydreaming and the
daydreaming styles that may be conducive to creativity.
The first part of the article provided a foundation for
understanding how daydreaming can facilitate creativity. We
distinguished two distinct creative processes: insight, which
appears to benefit from daydreaming, and analytic thought,
which is hampered by daydreaming. In the second part, we
offered a similarly nuanced approach for understanding the
heterogeneous phenomenon of daydreaming itself. Although
the empirical work on the effects of different daydream styles
is underdeveloped, we speculated about a number of factors
prevalent in people’s daydreaming that may contribute to
creativity. We closed by considering how future research might
lead to practical interventions for improving creativity and
theoretical advancements in understanding the ways in which
people daydream and generate new ideas. Although much
remains to be done, we hope that these speculations will provide
some fodder for researchers to daydream about, and ultimately
This research was supported by grant RFP-15-09 from the
Imagination Institute (, funded
by the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in
this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily
reflect the views of the Imagination Institute or the John
Templeton Foundation.
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Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was
conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
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Frontiers in Psychology | 7February 2016 | Volume 6 | Article 2063
... consequences (Fox & Beaty, 2019;McMillan et al., 2013;Ottaviani & Couyoumdjian, 2013). One of its adaptive consequences is people's heightened creativity when their minds wander (Zedelius & Schooler, 2016). The relationship between daydreaming and creativity has long been a lucrative topic for researchers. ...
... Recent research asserts that daydreaming varies in styles and different kinds of daydreaming have various effects on creativity (Zedelius & Schooler, 2016). Singer (1975) distinguished three styles of daydreaming: positive constructive daydreaming, which was characterized by planning, pleasant thoughts, vivid and wishful imagery, and curiosity; guilty-dysphoric daydreaming, which was characterized by obsessive, guilty, and anguished fantasies; and poor attentional control, which was characterized by the inability to focus attention on either the internal thoughts or the external tasks (Singer, 1975). ...
... Furthermore, positive constructive daydreaming is associated with personality trait such as openness to experience and curiosity, which is also closely related to creativity (Zhiyan & Jerome, 1997). Some researchers hold the opinion that positive constructive daydreaming benefits creativity through enhanced cognitive flexibility (Zedelius & Schooler, 2016). Although specific empirical research about the relationship between daydreaming and creative thinking is still lacking, recent opinions have claimed that daydreaming and creativity share similar cognitive mechanisms especially in selfgenerated thoughts and deliberate stage (Fox & Beaty, 2019). ...
Full-text available
Daydreaming and creativity have similar cognitive processes and neural basis. However, few empirical studies have examined the relationship between daydreaming and creativity using cognitive neuroscience methods. The present study explored the relationship between different types of daydreaming and creativity and their common neural basis. The behavioral results revealed that positive constructive daydreaming is positively related to creativity, while poor attentional control is negatively related to it. Machine learning framework was adopted to examine the predictive effect of daydreaming‐related brain functional connectivity (FC) on creativity. The results demonstrated that task FCs related to positive constructive daydreaming and task FCs related to poor attentional control both predicted an individual's creativity score successfully. In addition, task FCs combining the positive constructive daydreaming and poor attentional control also had significant predictive effect on creativity score. Furthermore, predictive analysis based on resting‐state FCs showed similar patterns. Both of the subscale‐related FCs and combined FCs had significant predictive effect on creativity score. Further analysis showed the task and the resting‐state FCs both mainly located in the default mode network, central executive network, salience network, and attention network. These results showed that daydreaming was closely related to creativity, as they shared common FC basis. The present study explored the relationship between different types of daydreaming and creativity and their common neural basis. The results showed the common task and the resting‐state functional connectivities both mainly located in the default mode network, central executive network, salience network, and attention network.
... The aforementioned studies indicate that the observation of the relationship between daydreaming and creativity would vary with different focuses. Therefore, it is essential to distinguish different types of creative thinking (less executive control demanded and more executive control demanded) and daydreaming/mind-wandering to show the whole picture (Zedelius & Schooler, 2016). ...
... PCD is not accompanied by being bored or distracted. In contrast, intentionality may relate to "successful" daydreaming (Murray et al., 2020;Zedelius & Schooler, 2016). Indeed, Smallwood et al. (2009) found that people would generate more positive daydreaming when they engaged in relatively lower executive-demanding tasks. ...
For decades, a growing body of literature has suggested that inattention is related to creativity (positively, perhaps), and this relationship is probably mediated by daydreaming or mind-wandering. However, given the heterogeneity of daydreaming and the complexity of creativity, this relationship can be perplexing. The goal of the present study was to explore the mediation roles of types of daydreaming (i.e., positive and negative) and processes of creative thinking (i.e., idea generation and idea selection) simultaneously in the relationship between inattention and real-life creativity by testing a theorized multiple mediation model. Our findings from a sample of 555 undergraduate students showed that: (a) positive daydreaming (i.e., positive-constructive daydreaming), followed by idea generation, mediated the negative relationship between inattention and real-life creativity; and (b) positive daydreaming, followed by the idea selection, also mediated the negative relationship between the inattention and real-life creativity. However, negative daydreaming (i.e., guilty-dysphoric daydreaming) did not play any mediation role in this relationship. We further found that (c) idea selection, as a single mediator, mediated the negative relationship between inattention and real-life creativity. Our results demonstrated the positive relationships between positive daydreaming and both bottom-up and top-down processes of creative thinking. The current study might contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between inattention and creativity and highlight the heterogeneity of daydreaming.
... Some have suggested that creative people tend to engage intentionally in mind wandering when at rest or doing undemanding tasks [13,28,36]. Zedelius and Schooler [13] further suggested that intentional mind wandering could open an opportunity to inspire creative ideas about an unfilled goal or unsolved problem. ...
... Further, in line with Agnoli et al. [37], who found that daily tendency toward intentional mind wandering was correlated with performance on originality of UUT, we also revealed that intentional mind wandering during incubation is helpful for breaking through mental impasses by generating ideas that are more original. Note that this correlation can be interpreted in the other way around, that is, creative people tend to engage intentionally in mind wandering as some researchers suggested [13,28,36]. However, this is not likely to be the case here because we did not find any correlation between the proportion of intentional mind wandering and performance on creativity on the first attempt (ps > .23). ...
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Mind wandering has been argued to be beneficial for breaking through mental impasses, which leads to better creative performance upon a second attempt (i.e., the incubation effect). However, the evidence is inconsistent. Different from the propensity for mind wandering that has been the focus of past studies, in this study we further examined the role of diversity (i.e., non-repetitiveness of mind wandering respective to its content) and types of mind wandering along the dimensions of intentionality and awareness during incubation when engaging in a 0-back task (a mind wandering-prone condition) and a focused-breathing practice (a mindfulness-induced condition). We proposed that diversity rather than the propensity for mind wandering was crucial for post-incubation divergent creativity and that mindfulness induction would be a more effective way to elicit the incubation effect because it should result in fewer but more diverse mind-wandering incidents than engaging in a mind wandering-prone task. We conducted an experiment with a between-participant variable (incubation tasks: mind wandering-prone, mindfulness-induced, and no incubation). As predicted, the mindfulness-induced group (N = 30) outperformed the control group (N = 31) on flexibility for the unusual uses task measuring divergent thinking after incubation, but the mind wandering-prone group (N = 29) did not outperform the control group. In addition, the diversity of mind wandering and the tendency toward intentional mind wandering predicted the magnitude of incubation effects on flexibility and originality, respectively. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
... Studies frequently cite a number of anecdotal cases of renowned scientists, artists, actors, directors, and writers (e.g., Kekulé, Poincaré, Einstein, Hitchcock, Coleridge, and Keats) whose creative output was allegedly influenced by imagining states such as lucid dreams, psychedelic hallucinations, daydreams, thought experiments, and meditation (Daniels-McGhee & Davis, 1994;Irving, 2014;Kozhevnikov et al., 2013;LeBoutillier, 1999;LeBoutillier & Marks, 2003;Miller, 1992aMiller, , 1992bPearson, 2007). Recent neuroimaging studies of eminent scientists and artists (Chavez, 2016;Di Bernardi Luft et al., 2019) have begun to explore the neural correlates of this association, and spontaneous mind wandering has also been studied in its own right as a potential source of creative inspiration (Abraham, 2016;Gable et al., 2019;Zedelius & Schooler, 2016). Indeed, when people are engaged in active problem-solving or creative imagination, they often close their eyes or shift their gaze to an empty part of their environment in order to disengage the external world and wander around their own internal cognitive landscape (Salvi & Bowden, 2016, p. 1, citing Paul Gauguin "I shut my eyes in order to see"). ...
Visual imagery vividness (VIV) quantifies how clearly people can “conjure up” mental images. A higher VIV reflects a stronger image, which might be considered an important source of inspiration in creative production. However, despite numerous anecdotes documenting such a connection, a clear empirical relationship has remained elusive. We argue that (a) a misunderstanding of visual imagery as unidimensional and (b) an overreliance on Marks’ Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ) are responsible. Based on both the proximal/distal imagination framework and the distinction between the ventral/dorsal visual pathways, we propose a new Multifactorial Model of Visual Imagery (MMVI). This argues that visual imagery is multidimensional and that only certain dimensions are related to creativity: inventive combinatorial ability, storyboarding, and conceptual expansion (all distal), together with the quasi-eidetic recall of detailed images (proximal). Turning to the VVIQ, a factor analysis of 280 responses in Study 1 yielded a three-factor solution (all proximal): episodic/autobiographical imagery, schematic recall, and controlled animation. None of these factors overlap with the creative dimensions of the MMVI. In Study 2, 133 participants had to remember nonverbalizable details of unfamiliar pictures for later recall; performance on this quasi-eidetic task again did not correlate with any VVIQ factors. We have thus demonstrated that the VVIQ is not unidimensional and that none of its factors appear suitable for probing imagery-creativity connections. The MMVI model is currently theoretical, and future research should confirm its validity, permitting a new, better targeted measure of VIV to be established that fully reflects its multidimensionality.
... Laukkonen et al., 2022). Moreover, other altered states like daydreaming, sleeping, or even acute alcohol intoxication have all been found to facilitate insight problemsolving (Jarosz et al., 2012;Sio et al., 2013;Zedelius and Schooler, 2016), suggesting that simply being in different states might facilitate insights (cf. "diversifying experiences" in creative cognition; Damian and Simonton, 2014). ...
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Despite distinct classes of psychoactive drugs producing putatively unique states of consciousness, there is surprising overlap in terms of their effects on episodic memory and cognition more generally. Episodic memory is supported by multiple subprocesses that have been mostly overlooked in psychopharmacology and could differentiate drug classes. Here, we reanalyzed episodic memory confidence data from 10 previously published datasets (28 drug conditions total) using signal detection models to estimate 2 conscious states involved in episodic memory and 1 consciously-controlled metacognitive process of memory: the retrieval of specific details from one’s past (recollection), noetic recognition in the absence of retrieved details (familiarity), and accurate introspection of memory decisions (metamemory). We observed that sedatives, dissociatives, psychedelics, stimulants, and cannabinoids had unique patterns of effects on these mnemonic processes dependent on which phase of memory (encoding, consolidation, or retrieval) was targeted. All drugs at encoding except stimulants impaired recollection, and sedatives, dissociatives, and cannabinoids at encoding impaired familiarity. The effects of sedatives on metamemory were mixed, whereas dissociatives and cannabinoids at encoding tended to enhance metamemory. Surprisingly, psychedelics at encoding tended to enhance familiarity and did not impact metamemory. Stimulants at encoding and retrieval enhanced metamemory, but at consolidation, they impaired metamemory. Together, these findings may have relevance to mechanisms underlying unique subjective phenomena under different drug classes, such as blackouts from sedatives or déjà vu from psychedelics. This study provides a framework for interrogating drug effects within a domain of cognition beyond the global impairments on task performance typically reported in psychopharmacology. Public significance statement This systematic review and reanalysis of several datasets indicate that sedatives (alcohol, zolpidem, triazolam), dissociatives (ketamine, dextromethorphan), psychedelics (psilocybin, MDMA), stimulants (dextroamphetamine, dextromethamphetamine), and cannabinoids (THC) can each have idiosyncratic effects on episodic memory, differentially impairing certain mnemonic processes while sparing or even facilitating others. Such findings inform how different drugs can produce unique subjective phenomena and provide a framework for future work to differentiate the effects of psychoactive drugs within a domain of cognition.
... The relation of imagery to external sources may also harbour interactions and interrelations not fully supported by language, and imagery may be more sensitive to intuition and manipulation (Intons-Peterson, 1993). The process of mind wandering has been associated with breaking fixation (the process of cycling back to old ideas when seeking new ones) (Chou & Tversky, 2020) and promoting insight generation (Zedelius & Schooler, 2016). Mind wandering has also been conceptualised as fluid thinking which has been associated with greater potential for creative problem solving during the incubation phase of the creative process (Baird et al., 2012). ...
Full-text available
Creativity, that is the creation of ideas or objects considered both novel and valuable, is among the most important and highly valued of human traits, and a fundamental aspect of the sciences. Dreams and hypnagogic states have been highly influential in promoting scientific creativity and insight, contributing to some important scientific breakthroughs. Phenomenologically, the latter states of consciousness share a great deal of overlap with the psychedelic state, which has also been associated with facilitating scientific creativity on occasion. The current article proposes that the dream, hypnagogic and psychedelic states share common features that make them conducive to supporting some aspects of scientific creativity and examines the putative underlying neurophenomenological and cognitive processes involved. In addition , some notable occurrences of scientific insights that have emerged from these types of altered states are reviewed and shared common features are presented, providing a ground for future research. The psychedelic state may have its own characteristic features making it amenable to creativity enhancement, such as brain hyperconnectivity, meta-cognitive awareness, access to a more dependable and sustained altered state experience, and potential for eliciting sustained shifts in trait openness. The contextual factors which may contribute to enhancement of scientific creativity and insight will be evaluated. While research in this area is limited, further work to elucidate how psychedelics may best contribute to scientific creativity enhancement is warranted.
... Murdaugh et al., 2016). And, of course, the ability to visually imagine is also thought to play a key role in the creativity and problem-solving that so enriches and progresses human societies (Moulton and Kosslyn, 2011;Dietrich and Haider, 2015;Zedelius and Schooler, 2016). ...
Conference Paper
Mental events are central to everyday cognition, be it our continuous perception of the world, recalling autobiographical memories, or imagining the future. Little is known about the fine-grained temporal dynamics of these processes. Given the apparent predominance of scene imagery across cognition, in this thesis I used magnetoencephalography to investigate whether and how activity in the hippocampus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) supports the mental construction of scenes and the events to which they give rise. In the first experiment, participants gradually imagined scenes and also closely matched non-scene arrays; this allowed me to assess whether any brain regions showed preferential responses to scene imagery. The anterior hippocampus and vmPFC were particularly engaged by the construction of scene imagery, with the vmPFC driving hippocampal activity. In the second experiment, I found that certain objects – those that were space-defining – preferentially engaged the vmPFC and superior temporal gyrus during scene construction, providing insight into how objects affect the creation of scene representations. The third experiment involved boundary extension during scene perception, permitting me to examine how single scenes might be prepared for inclusion into events. I observed changes in evoked responses just 12.5-58 ms after scene onset over fronto-temporal sensors, with again the vmPFC exerting a driving influence on other brain regions, including the hippocampus. In the final experiment, participants watched brief movies of events built from a series of scenes or non-scene patterns. A difference in evoked responses between the two event types emerged during the first frame of the movies, the primary source of which was shown to be the hippocampus. The enduring theme of the results across experiments was scene-specific engagement of the hippocampus and vmPFC, with the latter being the driving influence. Overall, this thesis provides insights into the neural dynamics of how scenes are built, made ready for inclusion into unfolding mental episodes, and then linked to produce our seamless experience of the world.
... Time-on-task plays an important role (Smallwood et al., 2002). However, it may not be the only factor: on top of various individual features linked with different MW rates [training in Casner and Schooler (2015); positivity in Hancock (2013); gender in Mar et al. (2012); creativity in Zedelius and Schooler (2016)], the very nature of tasks to perform could influence MW and its evolution. In particular, operators faced with increased automation see their relation to the task dramatically modified. ...
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The phenomenon of mind wandering (MW), as a family of experiences related to internally directed cognition, heavily influences vigilance evolution. In particular, humans in teleoperations monitoring partially automated fleet before assuming manual control whenever necessary may see their attention drift due to internal sources; as such, it could play an important role in the emergence of out-of-the-loop (OOTL) situations and associated performance problems. To follow, quantify, and mitigate this phenomenon, electroencephalogram (EEG) systems already demonstrated robust results. As MW creates an attentional decoupling, both ERPs and brain oscillations are impacted. However, the factors influencing these markers in complex environments are still not fully understood. In this paper, we specifically addressed the possibility of gradual emergence of attentional decoupling and the differences created by the sensory modality used to convey targets. Eighteen participants were asked to (1) supervise an automated drone performing an obstacle avoidance task (visual task) and (2) respond to infrequent beeps as fast as possible (auditory task). We measured event-related potentials and alpha waves through EEG. We also added a 40-Hz amplitude modulated brown noise to evoke steady-state auditory response (ASSR). Reported MW episodes were categorized between task-related and task-unrelated episodes. We found that N1 ERP component elicited by beeps had lower amplitude during task-unrelated MW, whereas P3 component had higher amplitude during task-related MW, compared with other attentional states. Focusing on parieto-occipital regions, alpha-wave activity was higher during task-unrelated MW compared with others. These results support the decoupling hypothesis for task-unrelated MW but not task-related MW, highlighting possible variations in the “depth” of decoupling depending on MW episodes. Finally, we found no influence of attentional states on ASSR amplitude. We discuss possible reasons explaining why. Results underline both the ability of EEG to track and study MW in laboratory tasks mimicking ecological environments, as well as the complex influence of perceptual decoupling on operators' behavior and, in particular, EEG measures.
... His notebook, with all its scribbling and bibbling, is part of the creative process. Actions such as doodling, daydreaming, or taking purposeful breaks from the task at hand have all been argued to be integral to creative development, just as much as putting conscious effort toward a project is (e.g., see Christoff et al. 2009;Crosby 2020;Ellwood et al. 2009;Gallate et al. 2012;Snyder et al. 2012;Zedelius and Schooler 2015). The science of creativity is of course varied and there is not much consensus about the processes underlying it or even what counts as "creative" in the first place. ...
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I argue that an enactivist framework has more explanatory power than traditional philosophical theories of cognition when it comes to understanding the mechanisms underlying human-animal relationships. In both intraspecies and interspecies exchanges, what we often find are novel forms of cognition emerging from such transactions, but these “co-cognitive” processes cannot be understood apart from the interaction itself. I focus on a specific form of human-animal interaction—play, as it occurs between humans and domestic dogs—and argue that the best theory suited to the task of explaining how these two species create unique thought processes is a “sympoietic enactivism.” Rather than the more common “autopoietic” arguments defended by many enactivists, I argue that what is more accurately occurring during bouts of human–dog play is sympoietic, or “collectively producing.” Drawing on several different disciplines that converge on similar conclusions about creativity and collaboration, I show that human–dog play is a quintessential case of cognition that cannot be readily understood by appealing to the inner workings of either individual among the dyad. Thinking, on this view, is a form of play, and in playful interaction what gets created are wholly intersubjective modes of thought.
Absorption in mind-wandering (MW) may worsen our mood and can cause psychological disorders. Researchers indicate the possibility that meta-awareness of MW prevents these mal-effects and enhances favorable consequences of MW, such as boosting creativity; thus, meta-awareness has attracted psychological and clinical attention. However, few studies have investigated the nature of meta-awareness of MW, because there has been no method to isolate and operate this ability. Therefore, we propose a new approach to manipulate the ability of meta-awareness. We used Pavlovian conditioning, tying to it an occurrence of MW and a neutral tone sound inducing the meta-awareness of MW. To perform paired presentations of the unconditioned stimulus (neutral tone) and the conditioned stimulus (perception accompanying MW), we detected participants’ natural occurrence of MW via electroencephalogram and a machine-learning estimation method. The double-blinded randomized controlled trial with 37 participants found that a single 20-min conditioning session significantly increased the meta-awareness of MW as assessed by behavioral and neuroscientific measures. The core protocol of the proposed method is real-time feedback on participants’ neural information, and in that sense, we can refer to it as neurofeedback. However, there are some differences from typical neurofeedback protocols, and we discuss them in this paper. Our novel classical conditioning is expected to contribute to future research on the modulation effect of meta-awareness on MW.
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The assumption that mindfulness facilitates the access to intuitive processes has been theoretically formulated but not investigated yet. Therefore, the present study explored whether the intuitive performance in a judgment of semantic coherence task of N = 94 participants was related to trait mindfulness. In contrast to our hypothesis, self-reported mindful-ness and the mindfulness facet, acting without judgment in specific, were negatively associated with intuitive performance. In an exploratory part of the study, we induced mindfulness, rumination, and distraction. We expected that participants in the mindfulness condition would outperform participants in the other two conditions in the intuition task. Even though we used a well-established paradigm to induce mindfulness, there were no differences between groups in intuition. We propose that future studies investigating the impact of mindfulness on processes such as intuition, should use more intensive manipulations of mindfulness. Possible explanations for the current findings and limitations are discussed.
Informal thought about the nature of mental operations important to creative human behavior suggests that perceptual processes are of considerable importance. The ability to “see relationships among elements” is an attribution commonly made toward authors of major scientific discoveries or of noteworthy artistic achievements. For example, Shepard (1978, 1981) documented self-reports from several creative scientists and authors that strongly emphasize the role of visual imagery and the manipulation of visual codes in the creative process.