“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved,” writes Daniel Levitin, director of the Laboratory for Music, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in the New York Times Sunday Review. Levitin says that on a typical day we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986, and discusses the importance of being able to switch from our brain’s fact-absorbing mode to its daydreaming mode.
“This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness,” writes Levitin. “But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable.”
Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain (New York Times Sunday Review, August 9, 2014)