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    Chronobiology and Chronopsychology: Humans are very bad at doing nothing

    Remembering the past and imagining the future are two processes that can be summarized under the term "mental time travel" and that seem to share largely overlapping neural substrates. We observe an important impact of "mental time travel" for decision-making and well-being. When does mental time travel occur? Dr. Julia Weiler answers (in: "Chronobiology and Chronopsychology"):

    T. G. Baudson, A. Seemüller, M. Dresler (Eds.) Chronobiology and Chronopsychology

    A. Schor-Tschudnowskaja, T. Uhlig (Hrsg.) Zeit. Psychologie & Gesellschaftskritik 177 (1-2021)

    "Surely, we can sit down and start thinking about a certain problem, imagining potential alternative future events and thereby reaching a decision. However, mental time travel often occurs spontaneously. Suddenly, some image pops into our mind and we find our thoughts in the future or the past. Consider for instance the situation that you are in a car - not driving yourself - on a long trip. You do not have any special task to do but sit there and are bored. What does your brain do under those circumstances? Is it simply on standby waiting for the next task to do? Is it not activated? We might be tempted to think our brain is doing nothing. But this is far from the truth.

    If people are instructed to simply do nothing but rest and their brain activation is monitored, the results show high activation in a certain set of brain areas. This set of regions was termed the default network. It happens to coincide with the set of regions that is active during mental time travel. It rather seems that humans are very bad at doing nothing. Even if we try really hard, we might have trouble to not think about anything. Instead, if left to ourselves, we will reminisce about our past or use the time to make plans for our future. It seems that when resting - or when there is nothing that strongly binds our attention -, our brain mentally travels through time ..."

     

    Literature:

    T. G. Baudson, A. Seemüller, M. Dresler (Eds.)
    Chronobiology and Chronopsychology
    Pabst, paperback, ISBN 978-3-89967-586-3
    More...

    A. Schor-Tschudnowskaja, T. Uhlig (Hrsg.)
    Zeit. Psychologie & Gesellschaftskritik 177 (1-2021),
    ISSN 0170-0537
    More...

     

     

    Icon Special and general specialist literatureSpecial scientific titles & generally understandable specialist literature
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