Wandering minds can affect memory

A person's memory could be affected if their mind is prone to wandering. This is the suggestion of new research published in the journal Psychological Science, which highlighted the existence of a mental workspace - or working memory - that enables individuals to facilitate numerous thoughts at once.

Daniel Levinson and Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Jonathan Smallwood at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science, which was established in 2004, noted this capacity represents the ability for people to retain information even after a number of unrelated events have taken place - such as remembering a lunch date after carrying out household chores.

According to the investigation, those with a higher working memory facility experience greater wandering of the mind when performing simple tasks.

Mr Smallwood noted: "When circumstances for the task aren't very difficult, people who have additional working memory resources deploy them to think about things other than what they're doing."

Dr Sinead Rhodes, Senior Lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, commented: "This study adds to a broad range of evidence showing the importance of working memory for everyday functioning extending in this study to mind wandering.

"The findings are particularly important as they highlight the significance of working memory for concurrent internally driven cognitive processes. This adds to existing knowledge of the relationship between working memory and other abilities, for example the now well-established relationship between working memory and IQ."