Daydreaming is the stream of consciousness that detaches from current external tasks when attention drifts to a more personal and internal direction. There are various names of this phenomenon including mind wandering, fantasy, spontaneous thoughts, etc. The state of daydreaming is a kind of liminal state between waking (with the ability to think rationally and logically) and sleeping.
There are many types of daydreams, and there is no consistent definition amongst psychologists. However, the characteristic that is common to all forms of daydreaming meets the criteria for mild dissociation. Also, the impacts of different types of daydreams are not identical. While some are disruptive and deleterious, others may be beneficial in some way.
The negative effects of daydreaming on reading performance have been studied the most thoroughly. Research shows that there is a negative correlation between daydreams frequency and reading comprehension performance. Negative mood is another consequence of daydreams. Research finds people generally report to be less happy when they are daydreaming than when they are not even the activities they otherwise do are the least enjoyed by them.
For the positive daydreaming, people report the same happiness rating between current tasks and pleasant things they are more likely to daydream about. It may also help people to sort through problems and achieve success. Research with fMRI shows that brain areas associated with complex problem-solving become activated during daydreaming episodes.
Since daydreaming is disruptive in external tasks and its potential benefits are quite private and subtle, it’s worth discussing the reason why it exists and occupies a large amount of people’s waking time. Mooneyham and Schooler summarized five potential functions daydreams serves: future thinking, creative thinking, attentional cycling, dishabituation and relief from boredom.
Freudian psychology interpreted daydreaming as expression of the repressed instincts similarly to those revealing themselves in nighttime dreams. Like nighttime dreams, daydreams, also, are an example of wish-fulfilment (based on infantile experiences). And are allowed to surface because of relaxed censorship. He pointed out that, in contrast to nighttime dreams, which are often confusing and incoherent. There seems to be a process of “secondary revision” in fantasies that makes them more lucid, like daydreaming.
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