My concern is that a lot of my daydreams involve people treating me differently than they actually would in real life, and there’s not much I can do in real life to change [that]” So—like Freud’s imagined orphan—she has fantasies where everything goes great and every move she makes is awesome. I’m pretty lax about my fantasies compared to Foley.
Western culture tends to look down on daydreamers—as if it’s a childish habit that we’re supposed to outgrow, along with make-believe games and imaginary friends.
But none other than Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, thought that most adults daydream too little.
“Past, present and future are strung together, as it were, on the thread of the wish that runs through them,” he wrote.
To the extent that this fantasy can inspire the orphan to make his daydreams come true, threading wishes can be a good idea.
Kane explains that when we’re daydreaming, we’re not attending to the external environment or optimally engaging in an ongoing activity.
So to the extent that attention matters—in the classroom or during an important presentation—there’s a cost to daydreaming.Most research on mind-wandering and daydreaming draws on either two methods: strict, laboratory conditions that ask people to complete boring, cognitive tasks and retrospective surveys that ask people to recall how often they daydream in daily life.It has been rather difficult to compare these results to each other; laboratory tasks aren't representative of how we normally go about our day, and surveys are prone to memory distortion.That said, as long as your mind isn’t wandering over your problems again and agaian, fantasizing can be useful.Take my Quartz colleague, health and science writer Katherine Ellen Foley.Kane’s team tracked 274 college students over a week as they daydreamed in their daily life, using electronic devices to prompt students to record their thoughts, as well as what they were currently doing, eight times a day.The study also asked students about their daydreams in a traditional lab setting.I let myself think that if it’s my heart’s desire, it’s okay to dream about in that moment.”I ask her why she doesn’t think this way all the time.Quite reasonably, Foley says, ”I like that idea, but I worry it would lead to perpetual disappointment.Though I long to bounce out of bed wide-awake and eager to start the morning, I suspect that my mind needs this interim period.Maybe I’m dreaming up a better day than the one I would have if I charged right in.