Sleep on it. No, re…
Sleep on it. No, really!

The great mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, collaborator with Bertrand Russell, seemed to be a cheer leader for unconscious mental processing: “It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copybooks and by eminent people making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking about what we’re doing. The precise opposite is the case.”

Some of the greatest breakthroughs in creativity occur when a problem is consciously ignored for a while – “let’s sleep on it”, after which the unconscious offers a solution – a process psychologists call incubation.

Now the very latest psychological research confirms that we can all incubate a problem to our own advantage. Ap Dijksterhuis, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam, has just published a series of experiments where students were presented with complex everyday problems to solve, like choosing the best flat and roommate.

The article goes on to talk about the rather counterintuitive findings that sleep and daydreaming help us work on problems, and the more complex the problem the better it is to use incubation.

So during that next committee meeting, when they catch you napping, you’ve got an out.

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