Daydreaming could help children oncentrate – and even perform better in tests, researchers claim. The children also feel less anxious and more motivated to perform, according to a review of studies on the value of time to reflect. Education should focus more on giving children time to think, claim researchers at the University of Southern California. A study found that introspection – time to reflect – may be harder and harder to come by but can also be an increasingly valuable part of life. Researchers from the University of Southern California studied literature from neuroscience and psychological science to explore what it meant to our brains to be ‘at rest’.
Research has looked at the ‘default mode’ network of the brain, which becomes active when we focuse inward. It suggests that individual differences in brain activity during rest are correlated with components of emotional functioning, such as self-awareness and moral judgment, as well as different aspects of learning and memory, reports journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Dr Mary Helen Immordino-Yang said: ‘We focus on the outside world in education and don’t look much at inwardly focused reflective skills and attentions, but inward focus impacts the way we build memories, make meaning and transfer that learning into new contexts.
‘What are we doing in schools to support kids turning inward?’ She says that studies suggest we need to practive moving between introspection and looking outwards, and while outward attention is essential for learning, reflection is equally important, fostering healthy development in the longer term. She said: ‘Balance is needed between outward and inward attention, since time spent mind wandering, reflecting and imagining may also improve the quality of outward attention that kids can sustain.’ Mindful introspection could become part of the classroom curriculum, she says, as it would provide students with the skills they need to engage in internal processing and productive reflection.
Research indicates that when children are given the time and skills necessary for reflecting, they often become more motivated, less anxious, perform better on tests, and plan more effectively for the future. It is also important in helping us make sense of the world at large, she said, and contributes to moral thinking and well being. But fast paced urban and digitial environments could be undermining the chances of reflection, she said.
She said: ‘Consistently imposing overly high-attention demands on children, either in school, through entertainment, or through living conditions, may rob them of opportunities to advance from thinking about ‘what happened’ or ‘how to do this’ to constructing knowledge about ‘what this means for the world and for the way I live my life’.’ The research shows that rest is not necessarily idleness and instead internal reflection could be critical to learning from experience and making choices for the future, she writes.