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Good Housekeeping
Jennifer Chan, Assistant Managing Editor
March 27, 2012

The Higher Your Working Memory, the More Likely Your Mind Will Wander

Research shows that having all that space in your mind can make you more prone to distraction. By Jennifer Chan

Working memory is responsible for many things, including the retention of information. The higher your working memory, the more you can multitask. However, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, having a high working memory also means that your mind has a tendency to wander

In the study, researchers asked participants to do two simple things. One was to press a button when a certain letter appeared on screen; the other was to tap their finger in tune with their breathing. During the experiment, researchers regularly checked on their participants, asking whether their mind was focused or wandering. Their working memory capacity was also tested through their ability to remember a series of letters given to them alongside easy math problems. 

Results? Those with higher working memory capacities were much more likely to lose concentration. There was, however, an exception. Researchers found that the connection between working memory and a wandering mind disappeared in people who were given easy tasks that were filled with sensory distractions.

Having a better working memory doesn’t mean that your mind is cursed to wander, though. According to researchers, how you use your mind is still your choice. While there is a natural tendency for minds with higher working memory to drift off, you still have control over your actions. 

(Photo by pedroaxl via Flickr Creative Commons

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Jennifer Chan
Assistant Managing Editor
Jennifer Chan was a contributing writer for Female Network for two years before formally joining the team as a staff writer in July 2012... Read more...
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