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Daydream to be like Einstein, Newton: Researchers

Posted on Nov 26, 09:50AM | IANS

You think discipline and a regimented schedule is best for a workplace? Here's cause to rethink: Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have shown that daydreaming is key to problem-solving.

Some of the most significant discoveries and breakthroughs ever made by Einstein, Newton and many others in scientific and creative fields occurred as their minds wandered, scientists found.

A report in the journal Psychological Science provides an account of research that shows that ordinary people were better at solving problems when they allowed their minds to wander.

Einstein began his theory of relativity while he daydreamed about riding or running beside a sunbeam to the edge of the universe, after he was expelled from school for rebelling against rote learning.

Newton developed his theory of gravity after he happened to see an apple fall from a tree in his mother's garden in Lincolnshire, according to the Telegraph.

The new research found that people who returned to a task that was difficult after taking a break to do an easy task performed much better. Their ability to handle the difficult task improved by as much as 40 percent.

There was, however, little improvement in the performance of people who did another demanding task during the break, used it to rest, or did not have a break at all.

"Many influential scientific thinkers claim to have had their moments of inspiration while engaged in thoughts or activities not directly aimed at solving the problem they were trying to solve," said Benjamin Baird, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led the study.

"The findings arguably provide the most direct evidence to date that conditions that favour mind wandering also enhance creativity," he said.

The study involved 145 people aged between 19 and 32 who were given two minutes to list as many unusual uses as possible for everyday objects.