The iPhone App and the Wandering Mind

The iPhone app and your wandering mind?

The iPhone has recently been involved in some unusual researcher by Harvard University. Willing iPhone owners took part in a study on daydreaming. More than 2,200 volunteers downloaded an app which then surveyed them about their thoughts and mood at random times throughout a whole day.

The study revealed that people’s minds wander at least 30% of the time, even when involved in demanding tasks. Dr Matthew Killingsworth, one of the researchers, said: "Mind-wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities. This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present..."

What struck me most was this: the data also showed a connection – albeit a small one – between the degree of mind-wandering and the level of happiness. People who were most distracted also reported more feelings of unhappiness...

Startlingly, unhappiness was reported most while people were resting, working or using computers. Can this piece of research be taken seriously..? Or does it merely show that the type of people who have wandering minds and feel unhappy are also those who are likely to buy an iPhone..?

The research can’t be accurately corroborated, but Prof Nilli Lavie, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, did say this - her own laboratory research had found similar or even higher levels of mind-wandering among subjects given less demanding tasks to complete.

It seems fairly obvious, that to keep your mind engaged on a task you need variety and you need to be stretched. Long hours in front of a PC or doing the same task are bound to take their toll; on engagement and on productivity.

So, perhaps as employers we need to take notice – if we truly want our employees engaged we need to keep their interest stimulated through variety and challenge while recognizing that mind-wondering is going to happen and therefore putting tools, processes and materials in place to remind and refocus people on a continual basis. The communication of essential corporate messages require repetition.

If not you may find many of your employees suffering from presenteeism, physically at work but spending 30%+ of their time on their iPhones..!

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