Jonah Lehrer shares some research indicating that people with higher IQs seem to have minds that are quite active when at rest – in other words, they're daydreamers. As Lehrer notes, daydreaming has a bad reputation. "Children in school are encouraged to stop daydreaming and 'focus,' and wandering minds are often cited as a leading cause of traffic accidents. In a culture obsessed with efficiency, daydreaming is derided as a lazy habit or a lack of discipline, the kind of thinking we rely on when we don't really want to think." This reminded me that scientists have also learned that napping during the day increases productivity, and even prevents heart attacks.
This kind of research should be especially relevant to those who live in Washington, a city whose residents sometimes seem to be engaged in an endless contest to see who can log the most hours at their offices. (I may be the only one who believes that when a member of the administration says she's stepping down to spend more time with her family, she could be telling the truth.) What if every day over at the Treasury Department, everyone took a quick nap, then spent a few minutes daydreaming? We might have fixed the economy by now.
Of course, there's no reason why sloth and activity can't coexist. For instance, the staff of the Office of Management and Budget are now wearing pedometers to document their purposeful striding about the halls of the executive branch. Let's hope they take a nap when they get back to the office.
Next up: studies showing that showers lasting less than 30 minutes are ineffective, television watching boosts your immune system (if done while completely prone), and wearing loose-fitting clothes enhances your ability to solve math problems.