Have you ever considered that there might be angels traveling in and around our cars as we drive around our streets and highways? I know I certainly have! Especially when I think about the crazy (and dangerous) driving habits that I often notice when I navigate through huge metropolitan areas such as Atlanta and Los Angeles. As I’m driving home from a large city, I often shake my head in wonder that we did not witness, or worse yet experience, carnage on our trip.
I came across a research study on mind wandering that was done at George Mason University. In the abstract of the study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, a brief synopsis of how the study was performed was outlined. For five days in a row, volunteers completed two 20-minute simulations of driving along a monotonous stretch of straight highway at a constant speed. Between the two “commutes,” which simulated going to and from work, volunteers completed a written test to simulate the mentally draining effect of a day’s work.
Throughout the driving simulations, volunteers heard a buzzer at random intervals, and each time they used a tablet computer to indicate if their mind had been wandering before they heard the buzzer. If so, were they aware their mind was wandering? Findings: “During simulated driving time, people’s minds wander a lot—some upwards of 70% of the time.”
Each volunteer was wired to a device that detected electrophysiological brain patterns, and researchers were able to detect the patterns that indicated when the volunteers were likely less receptive to external stimuli. The study brought up a few interesting questions, such as:
• Is mind wandering dangerous?
• If so, can we stop doing it?
Further studies in this area are needed, but in the meantime, I invite you to give a silent nod of thanks to whatever is keeping us relatively safe on the roads we traverse. I know for sure that my mind wanders, as too many times I have arrived at my destination and asked myself, “Who drove me here?” And furthermore, “What was I thinking about that was so important that it commanded attention that should’ve been focused on the road and, especially, other drivers? In the meantime, drive safely and as mindfully as possible.