Have you ever figured out a complex problem while cleaning your feet, had a revelation while running water to rinse your skin? You are not the only ones and it has a name: “the shower effect”. Whether quirky, harrowing, or relevant, these thoughts formulated in the shower are the subject of a the entire subgroup in the social network Reddit.
Several scientists have studied the phenomenon in recent years. In the thread header: Zachary Irvingresearcher in cognitive sciences and philosophy at the University of Virginia, specialist in the concept of mind wandering (“wandering mind“). At the core of the explanation of the “shower effect” would be the idea that you have to know how to take breaks and clear your mind when trying to solve a problem. In or out of the shower, it would be about cultivating the art of getting away from a problem to be solved by dedicating oneself to another manual or physical task that requires a medium level of concentration, be it a walk or gardening, knowing how to step aside.
Two new experiences
Until now the experiments that tried to prove and explain this rain effect had not always been conclusive, some even contradicted each other. According to Zachary Irving, the experimental models used were probably not the correct ones. Many confused the wandering of the mind with boredom, when, according to him, the genesis of new ideas would require a subtle balance between free thought and concentration. Some studies focused on measuring the effects of distraction more than wandering around with methods that poorly reproduced situations of everyday life, says the researcher in Science alert.
To answer this, Irving and his colleagues devised two new experiments. During the first, participants had to assign new functions to an everyday object for 90 seconds. They were then invited to watch a 3-minute video, one boring and the other more interesting. At the end of the visualization, they were asked to go back to the first exercise. Those who had seen the boring video found fewer ideas and especially less original than those who had seen the stimulating video. They were then asked to describe how their minds wandered while watching the videos. The more bored the participants were, the less they let their minds wander.
the second experience was very similar, except this time half of the participants were told they would have to go back to the original exercise, the other half were not. Thus, those who were warned but found the boring video got more ideas than in the previous experiment. On the other hand, they were always less original than those of the participants who had seen a more stimulating video.
Despite everything, questions remain, in mind, why does our brain work in this way?