Distinctive mind wandering states and creative thinking
The mental activity of mind wandering (defined as off-task thoughts), is widely claimed to have an enhancing effect on creative thinking. Though commonly mentioned, the empirical findings about this effect are few and seem questionable, and the underlying mechanism is still unclear. Using a recent methodology to measure mind wandering states, the current study suggests a crucial distinction between spontaneous (unintentional) and deliberative (intentional) mind wandering states, in their relationship with creative thinking.
While the general amount of mind wandering did not predict creative performance, mind wandering spontaneity was found to be positively related to enhancement in creative thinking. That is, spontaneous mind wandering was correlated with enhanced creativity, while deliberative mind wandering was correlated with reduced creativity.
Our results also show moderating effects of mind wandering spontaneity on the effects of task difficulty and the general mind wandering, on creative thinking enhancement.
While further research is needed, these results shed light and raise new questions about the phenomena of mind wandering, and the underlying mechanism of creative thinking.