from Greg Beato at Nautilus:
Ever since Frederick Winslow Taylor timed the exact number of seconds that Bethlehem Steel workers took to push shovels into a load of iron ore and then draw them out, maximizing time efficiency has been a holy grail of the American workplace. But psychologists and neuroscientists are showing us the limits of this attitude: Wasting time, they say, can make you more creative. Even seemingly meaningless activities such as watching cat videos on YouTube may help you solve math problems.
Brent Coker, who studies online behavior at the University of Melbourne in Australia, found that people who engage in "workplace Internet leisure browsing" are about 9 percent more productive than those who don't. Last year, Jonathan Schooler, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara published with his doctoral student Benjamin Baird a study called Inspired by Distraction. It concluded that "engaging in simple external tasks that allow the mind to wander may facilitate creative problem solving."
"The most surprising result of the study was that the non-demanding task was actually better than doing nothing," Schooler says. Why this is so, however, is less clear. "My best guess is that if you're engaged in a non-demanding task, it kind of prevents you from having long trains of thought," Schooler posits. "It's sort of churning things up, stirring the pot, so you're not maintaining one thought for a particularly long time. There are a lot of different ideas going in and out, and that sort of associative process leads to creative incubation."
The entire post can be read here.
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