Title: The Role of Daydreaming in Emotion Regulation Background: Daydreaming has always been a controversial issue in scientific research

and its bad reputation seems to persist. Daydreaming has been linked to poor performance, procrastination and, now, to negative emotional consequences in everyday life. Recent research postulates that although people’s minds are more likely to wonder to pleasant topics, it doesn’t make them happier than when they’re thinking about neutral or unpleasant topics (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010). However, this surprising finding may be due to necessary conceptual clarifications which were overlooked. The next segment will attempt to revise the contradictory findings regarding daydreaming and examine its functions. Daydreaming may have important roles in self-regulation, which have been neglected or overlooked because its potential to be a distracting activity from the task at hand. Although the benefits of daydreaming haven’t been explored in depth, there have been researchers who consider that daydreaming might play several roles in human cognition and we can’t dismiss it as an interference with tasks which require conscious effort. Research has intuitively described functions such as planning for the future (Mueller & Dyer, 1986). Daydreaming permits the anticipation of possible future situations, which allows the formation of desirable responses to those situations in advance and thus improves efficiency (Mueller & Dyer, 1986). Daydreaming can also support learning from successes and failures. Examination of alternative actions in a success or failure experience allows one to learn planning strategies to be remembered for use in future similar situations. In addition, daydreaming can enhance creativity by allowing the generation of new and useful solutions to a problem. Daydreaming occurs in the context of an episodic memory which is constantly subject to revision. Each time a problem is examined, new information may be available that will enable a better, different, or more creative solution (Mueller & Dyer, 1986). Daydreams can also provide temporary relief from the emotional stress of harsh realities by encouraging more comforting thoughts that foster relaxation. For example, upon a negative experience, daydreaming enables one to feel better or feel worse depending on success or failure in rationalizing that experience. Fear associated with a future event may be reduced if one daydreams about effective plans to succeed in that event, or increased if daydreams of likely failure result (Mueller & Dyer, 1986). Studies have also shown that patients with chronic conditions sometimes adopt wishful daydreams as a strategy to escape emotional strain due to the stressful demands of the situation (Feifel, Strack & Nagy, 1993; Kreitler & Kreitler, 1991). Many studies have demonstrated that while daydreams may have negative connotations, its problem solving content may improve the ability to foresee and adapt to future events (Klinger, 1990; Singer, 1981; Starker, 1982; Mueller & Dyer, 1986). An important argument in favor of the positive effects of daydreaming can be found in developmental psychology. One of the most comprehensive studies yet, has examined differences in daydreaming in a large sample, between the ages of 17 and 95 years old (1782 women, 1545 men; Giambra, 2000). Results have shown that as age increases, there’s a decrease in daydream frequency and absorption – assignment of cognitive

mental activity directed toward the future – attempts to engage in mental problem-solving on an issue whose outcome is uncertain but contains the possibility of one or more negative outcomes (Borkovec et al. Considering these interesting findings. there is a decrease in visual imagery. More precisely.. Papageorgiu & Wells. 2008). However. . mind wandering was associated also with the executive network. Andrews-Hanna & Schacter. which includes image generation. people exercise their problem-solving abilities and face emotional challenges in their minds. little has been known about the neural operations that support this feature of human cognition. Results have demonstrated activation of default network regions during mind wandering. Bar & Macrae. 2009). The medial temporal lobe subsystem provides information from prior experiences in the form of memories and associations that are the building blocks of mental simulation. The negative emotional consequences of daydreaming.. Andrews-Hanna & Schacter. we argue that these daydreaming patterns serve a purpose. old group age. maintenance and transformation. Still. found by the first mentioned study. respectively. Another important argument in favor of exploring the functions of daydreaming can be found in neuroscience. As age increases the bizarre-improbable daydreams decrease too. Christoff et al. The adaptive roles of the default network cannot be entirely dissociated from the adaptive role of daydreaming. a possible explanation for the increase in bizarre-unrealistic daydreams at the young.. heroic. There also seems to be decreased daydreaming with age when it comes to sexual. 2008). achievement-oriented. By daydreaming. hostile and guilt content. Such roles include using past experiences to plan for the future. Although mind wandering is a ubiquitous psychological phenomenon. Regarding the content. fear of failure. envisioning the future and conceiving the perspectives of others (Buckner. 2007. the default network is active when individuals are engaged in internally focused tasks including autobiographical memory retrieval. The medial prefrontal subsystem facilitates the flexible use of this information during the construction of selfrelevant mental simulations (Buckner. Providing insight into the function. unusual or unrealistic daydreams show a U-shaped age function – the number tends to be high for young and old subjects. repetitive thoughts that recur in the absence of immediate environmental demands. 2008). navigate social interactions and maximize the utility of moments when the mind isn’t otherwise engaged by the external world (Buckner. using a combination of cognitive tasks and functional brain imaging (fMRI) have investigated the cortical areas that are active during unconstrained cognitive periods – also known as the default network (Mason. There may be a greater number of daydreams in childhood and adolescence because of their function to participate in the development of cognitive and emotional skills. it is essential to differentiate between types of stimulus-independent mental activity. 1983. but low for middleaged.resources. can be addressed by distinguishing between mental activities directed toward the past – persistent. The observed activation of both brain systems which have been assumed to work in opposition suggests that mind wandering may evoke a unique mental state that allows otherwise opposing networks to work together (Christoff et al. while adjusting to the outcomes. Also. Andrews-Hanna & Schacter. 2009). in addition to the default network activation. Recent studies. might be that the dramatic developmental changes these groups go through are also met by using daydreaming as an emotion regulation strategy.

Negative consequences have also been found in regard to repeatedly thinking about potential future threats. risks. 2010). in which one repeatedly and in an abstractevaluative way ponders about oneself. blaming others. Although stimulus-independent thought directed toward the past or the future doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of rumination or worry. and about the possible causes. we argue that this conceptualization may help in distinguishing between the positive and negative emotional effects of daydreaming. In order to be able to differentiate between effective and maladaptive emotion regulation mechanisms. 2010). and implications of one’s life events and feelings.2006). Building on the data presented so far. Our hypotheses regarding these pathways can be observed using the following model: Past-Directed Rumination Negative emotional consequences Positive emotional consequences Negative emotional consequences Daydreaming Independent of time. worry and unrealistic. and imagined catastrophes. and projection or by more conscious cognitive processes such as blaming oneself. Robust findings demonstrated that such ruminative thinking prolongs and deepens sad and depressed mood. social. 2008.. but also examine the specific mechanisms through which daydreams can enhance problem-solving abilities and even improve performance. memory distortions. 2008. Raes. meanings. So. as reported in prospective studies (Nolen-Hoeksema et al. as observed in experimental studies. Emotion regulation can refer to a wide range of biological. Emotions can be managed by several non-conscious cognitive processes such as selective attention processes. fantasy-based daydreaming. and predicts the maintenance of clinical depression and the onset of new episodes of depression. In addition. denial. the next segment will explore the newly-formed directions of research. Kraaji & Spinhoven. fantasy-based Worry Future-Directed . Overall aim of the project and hypotheses The present study aims to explore the role of daydreaming particularly in emotion regulation. ruminating or catastrophizing (Garnefski. a cognitive pattern known as anxious worry (Raes. has generally been named rumination (Raes. Emotion regulation is an important factor in determining well-being and successful functioning. The repetitive form of thinking. the project aims to identify the neural bases of different types of daydreaming by distinguishing between rumination. cognitive processes such as rumination and worry have also been included as cognitive emotion regulation strategies (Smith & Alloy. 2010). The first study included in the project will focus on establishing the differences between types of daydreaming in relation to their effect on perceived emotion. behavioral as well as conscious and non-conscious cognitive processes. we must explore the pathways of stimulus-independent thought. fantasy-based thoughts. 2010). uncertainties. 2001). and atemporal mental activity in the form of unrealistic daydreams. Watkins.

Self-Report Assessment Participants will receive the following scales and questionnaires meant to appraise the level of ruminative. Cronbach’s alpha of . The subscales which could help determine the connection between fantasy. Larson. The 344 Likert items comprise 28 scales which measure aspects of daydreaming style and content. We hypothesize that differences in neural bases regarding the three cognitive pathways will support our proposed model. the second part of the project will address the issue of the neural bases of daydreaming. Imaginal Processes Inventory (IPI) is a comprehensive battery developed by Jerome L. • • . mental style. when the different cognitive processes occur. The scale has demonstrated adequate reliability and good validity. 2007).g. & Borkovec. worrisome and fantasy-based stimulus-independent thoughts: • Ruminative Response Scale (RRS. unrealistic daydreams and their effect on the emotional state of the individual. & Grayson.90 has been reported. Nolen-Hoeksema. Antrobus (1966). Methodology Study 1: Daydreaming and its emotional consequences Participants: will be selected on a volunteer basis. The second study will examine the neural correlations between each daydreaming pattern. 1999) consists of 22 items measuring ruminative responses to depressed mood. frontal polar and hippocampal) to mind-wandering which centers on future events (Mason. However. So far. which will be further related to the activity observed in the default network mode. Singer and John S. Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ. and general inner experience. Meyer. Sample items include “Why do I always react this way?” and “I analyze recent events to try to understand why I am depressed”. could be Positive Reactions in Daydreams and Bizarre-Improbable Daydreams. Miller. Procedure: can include self-report measures of the central factors investigated in the study (correlational data) or a laboratory experiment using specific daydreaming tasks. Bar & Macrae. Possible daydreaming pathways leading to emotional consequences Elaborating on the data resulted from the first study. further exploration is necessary to establish the neural bases for the three proposed pathways. studies have linked the medial temporal regions to mind wandering directed at memories of past episodes and areas involved in propsection (e. 1990) consists of 16 items measuring pathological worry. Metzger.1.Fig.

being unable to sustain work for a longer period of time. failing loved ones. Poor Attentional Control – tendencies toward mind wandering and drifting thoughts. In this case. solve problems and induce pleasant feelings. • • This questionnaire can be used to investigate the content of daydreaming. wishes or regrets is not associated with negative emotional states. worry. are associated with negative emotional consequences. This way we can determine the direction of the cognitive processes and answer one additional question: will a person with a pattern of negative emotional states (anxiety. 1981). respectively worrisome thoughts. Repetitive. we must aim at activating the specific areas during different cognitive tasks. losing interest. which would be further compared with the responses associated with task periods. to consider possible negative outcomes in regard to real issues and to indulge in fantasy. easily distracted by external stimuli. respectively. becoming angry. Guilt and Fear of Failure Daydreaming – daydreams with depressing. frightening and panicky qualities. events created. improbable stream of thought. Study 2: The Neural Bases of Daydreaming Procedure: To identify the neural bases of daydreaming. the Short Imaginal Processes Inventory may help us establish a correlation between Guilt and Fear of Failure Daydreaming and ruminative. These tasks can revolve around scenarios following the train of thought in rumination. Also. Aneshensel & Antrobus. depression) predominantly have “guilt and fear of failure daydreaming” or “guilt and fear of failure daydreaming” leads to negative emotional states? Expected results: Daydreaming as a mental activity defined by spontaneous fluctuation between the immediate sensory environment. persistent and intrusive thoughts. This shorter measure centers on the following factors: • Positive-Constructing Daydreaming – the dimension focuses on perceived beneficial qualities of daydreams – they help generate original ideas. . feeling guilty and afraid of doing something wrong. worry and fantasizing. reinterpreted or modified according to our fears. includes fears of not being able to finish jobs. Singer. which tend to acquire an uncontrollable central quality and are biased toward negative stimuli. the baseline measure would consist of the neural response associated with unconstrained cognitive states. This goal can be achieved by using functional brain imaging methods (fMRI) and measuring BOLD changes while participants respond to scenarios that direct them to reflect on problems in the past.Short Imaginal Processes Inventory (Huba. but also to establish the nature of the relationship between “imaginal processes” and rumination.However. the same researchers have also developed a shorter version of this questionnaire .

Christoff. R. A small sample decreases the chances of robust findings which can be generalized. p. daydreaming is a unique mental state generated involuntarily. However. Research hasn’t been giving daydreaming the attention it deserves and its potential has been hampered by views which see it as a procrastination technique. Experience sampling during fMRI reveals default network and executive system contributions to mind . R. On the other hand. Andrews-Hanna. It also has a role in the emotion regulation process because its capacity to generate alternative outcomes.. 1124. J. (2008).. Smith. Gordon. Recruiting the participants might be difficult because most people consider daydreams as private property. Another possible obstacle to obtain reliable neuroscientific evidence regarding the neural bases of daydreaming can be the difficulty to establish a baseline measure because of the default network mode itself. It has been reported that the inhibition about sharing daydreaming appears to disclose “a shared understanding” in society that even manifests in clinical practice. allowing the person to feel emotions... where patients tend to be more inclined to explore their mental life (Gruis.. It’s precisely why daydreaming can lead to new and surprising thought connections which enhance creativity. D. So. L. 2005). but relaxation induces mind wandering.. 1-38... which includes vivid imagery. while adjusting to the experience. (2009). W. The baseline in these type of studies is obtained by setting the subjects in a restful state. and also for the examination of possibly an alternate state of consciousness. Schooler. the exploration of daydreaming allows for the setting of its limitations and beneficial consequences. K. Function. there’s little experimental control over the fluctuating thoughts in people’s minds. Daydreaming is an alternate state of consciousness. seldom disclosed to others. The Brain’s Default Network. J. Possible problems and future directions There are some methodological issues which might threaten the validity of this study. Smallwood.. M. The findings will also confirm the proposed daydreaming pathways.. between external and internal environments. Anatomy. and Relevance to Disease.Expected results: The study will reveal the activation of different areas associated with the three distinguished types of daydreaming. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Daydreams facilitate a kind of mental rehearsal keeping the mind in a state of readiness to respond. L. References (in alphabetical order) Buckner. A. R... in which we fluctuate through mental images from the past. J. Neuroscientific studies can be rather costly and can’t involve large samples because of the nature of the procedures. Schacter. a shift in attention and dissociation from external stimuli. present and future.. Vol.

Functions. Exploring The Past And Impending Future In The Here And Now: Mind-Wandering In The Default State. Vol. 10.. 757–761. p. Imagination. Theory and Treatment. 616–625. Vol. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Garnefski. p. A roadmap to rumination: A review of the definition. M. Vol.. (1991). 30. Cognitive Sciences. Vol. Mueller... p. Nagy. Emotions. Kraaji. H. Strack. p. Towards a Computational Theory of Human Daydreaming. Cognitive orientation and physical disease or health. J. 8719-8724 Feifel.. Gruis. V. p. M.. Science. 21. and Emotional Problems. E. C. M. Killingsworth. (2010).. S. V. 367-413.... Negative Life Events. Vol. Dyer.. 5. 49. 106.. Smith. Mental Life and Medical Illnesses: A Study of General Practice Patients.. (2009). N.. assessment. L. p. Raes. Mason. Rumination and worry as mediators of the relationship between selfcompassion and depression and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences. p. M. 48. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 3. European Journal of Personality. 1311–1327. G. p. Wells.133-134. 29(2). A. No... M.. (2006). Alloy. and Imagery of Daydreams: Age Changes and Age Differences from Late Adolescent to the Old-Old. (2000)... The Temporal Setting. Cognitive Emotion Regulation. T. No. Clinical Psychology Review. and Beliefs about Depressive Rumination. A. p... No. and conceptualization of this multifaceted construct. 932. M. p.. In Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Personality and Individual Differences. Giambra. Paper Presented for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Papageorgiou. T. Bar. (2001).. Psychosomatic Medicine. Cognition And Personality. N.. Kreitler.1-18. Gilbert. Vol. 19(4).. (2007). C. Macrae.. Vol. p. p. A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Spinhoven. H. B. P. (2005). (2010). Kreitler. 109–129. Vol. Depressive Rumination: Nature. F. Victoria University. (1987).1-20.120-129. Vol. 116–128. Coping Strategies and Associated Features of Medically Ill Patients. Nature. D.. (1986). 330. S. School of Psychology. . 2..wandering. T. L..

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful