"Surely, we can sit down and start thinking about a certain problem, imagining potential alternative future events and thereby reaching a decision. However, mental time travel often occurs spontaneously. Suddenly, some image pops into our mind and we find our thoughts in the future or the past. Consider for instance the situation that you are in a car - not driving yourself - on a long trip. You do not have any special task to do but sit there and are bored. What does your brain do under those circumstances? Is it simply on standby waiting for the next task to do? Is it not activated? We might be tempted to think our brain is doing nothing. But this is far from the truth.
If people are instructed to simply do nothing but rest and their brain activation is monitored, the results show high activation in a certain set of brain areas. This set of regions was termed the default network. It happens to coincide with the set of regions that is active during mental time travel. It rather seems that humans are very bad at doing nothing. Even if we try really hard, we might have trouble to not think about anything. Instead, if left to ourselves, we will reminisce about our past or use the time to make plans for our future. It seems that when resting - or when there is nothing that strongly binds our attention -, our brain mentally travels through time ..."
T. G. Baudson, A. Seemüller, M. Dresler (Eds.)
Chronobiology and Chronopsychology
Pabst, paperback, ISBN 978-3-89967-586-3
A. Schor-Tschudnowskaja, T. Uhlig (Hrsg.)
Zeit. Psychologie & Gesellschaftskritik 177 (1-2021),