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We live in a time of tremendous focus on … focus and productivity. Scan the shelves of any self-help section in a bookstore and you’ll find copious volumes on how to focus better, deeper, and longer along with a litany of productivity hacks and habits to efficiently glean. What you will often struggle to find however are books advocating doing nothing. But when it comes to creativity and making deep connections, it’s precisely when we are wandering that we are most focused on invention.

To talk more about cognitive science and psychology, I brought local New York City professor Anna-Lisa Cohen on “Securities” to talk about her research into mind wandering and how we balance present actions with future intentions. Her work became a viral hit during the pandemic after a Washington Post op-ed she penned on “mental time travel” struck a nerve (yes, that’s a cognitive sciences pun) for many suffering during the isolation at the heights of Covid-19.

We talk about our brain’s default mode network, why mind wandering shouldn’t get a bad rap, peak performance and generating novel concepts, what it means to focus on not focusing, carrying out future intentions and prospective memory, the psychology of film and particularly a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s “Bang! You’re Dead”, cognitive closure and its effect of information seeking, and finally, future simulations.

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