Why does our Mind Suddenly go Blank?
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It might happen to us while we are driving, while we are on the metro, while we are waiting in line at the grocery store, or even when we are taking a test or interviewing for a job.
Our “emptied” mind is lost, and we experience a form of severe decoupling of perception and attention in which attention itself is incapable of delivering any kind of stimulus to consciousness. Our mind is “emptied” of thought. We refer to this condition as having a blank mind.
In recent years, researchers at a number of illustrious educational institutions have conducted numerous studies to investigate the causes of the blank mind by conducting in-depth research on its characteristics and trying to determine whether or not it is similar to waking to a dream. One of the most surprising findings of these studies was the hypothesis that a blank mind is similar to waking from a dream. What if it turns out that the difference in attention spans between sleeping and being awake isn’t all that great?
Blank Mind: When our Heads go
A study that was conducted by the Department of Psychology at Harvard University and published in Frontiers in 2013 took an objective, scientific approach to the issue of mind blanking. And he did it by carrying out seven distinct experiments with the intention of distinguishing this mental state from others that are comparable to it in terms of phenomenological experience.
The loss of attention and lack of awareness that occurs when the mind is “nowhere” would characterize a priori the sensation of having a blank mind for the researchers. During this state, the individual is not focally aware of any stimulus, either internal or external.
But how is it possible to have absolutely no idea what you’re doing while driving and then instantly react to a stimulus by rotating the steering wheel so as to avoid a collision? According to research, it appears that the vast majority of cognitive processing and behavior control takes place outside of one’s conscious consciousness. In point of fact, a great deal of stimuli are perceived and have an effect on feelings “even if they do not reach consciousness.”
This uncoupling of attention and perception enables the mind to roam aimlessly without being consciously controlled, a phenomenon known as mind wandering. It also enables the mind to completely halt its conscious thought, a phenomenon known as mind blanking.
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Research indicates that people’s minds are detached from their current perceptual environments nearly half of the time: for a significant portion of human life, the mind is not “here,” but rather “there.” Despite this, people do not appear to suffer overt behavioral deficits on many tasks when attention is disengaged from perception.
In a series of seven tests, researchers from Harvard characterized the “blank mind” in terms of four essential characteristics shared by disconnected mental states. These characteristics are phenomenological experience, behavioral outcomes, meta-awareness, and patterns of occurrence through time.
And the consequence of all of this was that it “gave the evidence supporting the existence of the blank mind as a distinct mental state with a distinctive psychological imprint,” which is a possibility that the mind is neither here nor there but nowhere. It has been disregarded by empirical examinations of consciousness and attention, opening the way to a wider taxonomy of mental states that encompasses the complete absence of conscious content and being unconnected to the stimuli, which can be either internal or external.
Blank Mind: Daydreaming
Other professionals in the fields of psychology and neurology have taken up the demand made by Harvard academics that there be more in-depth studies conducted on the phenomena of mind blanking.
A study that related the attention spans of the blank mind with the physiological processes that occur in the brain while we sleep was presented in 2021 by a number of researchers from the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
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An electroencephalogram was used to measure the brain activity of young people who were otherwise healthy. The researchers were specifically looking for indications that the subjects were sleeping while they were awake. When a person is tired, waves that are comparable to those that occur during sleep can be observed inside their brain.
In this sense, the researchers pointed out a conclusion that was more than interesting: that sleep and wakefulness are not “all or nothing phenomena,” and that they have a closer relationship than was previously thought, a kind of intrusion of sleep while sleeping. In this sense, the researchers pointed out a conclusion that was more than interesting. a day that “turns off” the mind, and that can explain a wide range of lapses in concentration, including mental wandering or mind, wandering, slowness, impulsiveness, and a blank mind itself. a day that “turns off” the mind.
It has been hypothesized that the findings of this research could have significant implications for attention deficit disorders such as ADHD. People who suffer from this condition, whether they are adults or children, frequently report having trouble sleeping and staying awake, in addition to having trouble concentrating on activities that do not require much mental effort.
A recent study that was conducted in the same vein and released at the tail end of 2022 by the University of Liège in Belgium is relevant here. In this particular study, the researchers observed that when people experience moments of mindlessness, the brains organize themselves in such a way that all parts of the brain communicate with each other at the same time. Therefore, the blank mind is in a state that is analogous to that of profound sleep, yet it occurs while the person is awake.
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A challenge to the conventional view that the mind is always “busy thinking” is posed by the finding of this study, which came to the conclusion that the blank mind possesses a distinct neurobehavioral profile. This finding suggests that unreportable mental events can take place while the subject is awake. According to one of the researchers, “After all, it is plausible that the borders of sleep and wakefulness are not as discrete as they seem.”
Blank Mind, Mental Block and Stress
In spite of the fascinating findings of these more recent studies, it appears that the waking dream state and the mind are separate from the blank mind as a mental block that can occur in extreme cases of nervousness, stress, or anxiety in which our mind is forced to deal with a significant amount of stimulation. wandering.
It may occur when we are required to speak in public, just before we take a test, during a job interview, or when we are attending an important appointment. The high levels of stress that are sometimes associated with certain scenarios cause the body to react in a certain way. It is comparable to when we experience an amplified terror while our instincts are on high alert.
However, excessive anxiety and concentration do not typically work well together, and when we went up to the pulpit to make our presentation in front of dozens of people, despite having prepared everything we were going to say in detail, we were stuck with our minds in white, and we could hardly remember what we were going to talk about. Despite having prepared everything we were going to say in detail, we were stuck with our minds in white and could hardly remember what we were going to talk about.
It is an unpleasant experience that does not result from relaxation, boredom, or fatigue, but rather from mental blankness brought on by stress. It is more difficult for us to access recently stored knowledge because the many hormones that react to conditions of high anxiety alter the functioning of the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain connected to declarative memory — that of speeches. And at that precise moment, we find ourselves wishing more than ever that we were asleep.
When you are experiencing a mental block, the only option to “recover your memory” is to retake control of the situation, relax, and rely on some written notes. If it’s a test, you should wait a few seconds until the stress reaction subsides and you are able to retrieve the information that was stored in your hippocampus again. which, don’t worry, is still there.