A daydream is a visionary fantasy experienced while awake, especially one of happy, pleasant thoughts, hopes or ambitions. There are so many different types of daydreaming that there is still no consensus definition amongst psychologists. While daydreams may include fantasies about future scenarios or plans, reminiscences about past experiences, or vivid dream-like images, they are often connected with some type of emotion.
Daydreaming may take the form of a train of thought, leading the daydreamer away from being aware of his or her immediate surroundings, and concentrating more and more on these new directions of thought. To an observer, they may appear to be affecting a blank stare into the distance, and only a sudden stimulus will startle the daydreamer out of their reverie.
While daydreaming has long been derided as a lazy, non-productive pastime, daydreaming can be constructive in some contexts. There are numerous examples of people in creative or artistic careers, such as composers, novelists and filmmakers, developing new ideas through daydreaming. Similarly, research scientists, mathematicians and physicists have developed new ideas by daydreaming about their subject areas.
In the late 1960s, psychologist Jerome L. Singer of Yale University and psychologist John S. Antrobus of the City College of New York created a daydream questionnaire. The questionnaire, called the Imaginal Processes Inventory (IPI), has been used to investigate daydreams. Psychologists Leonard Giambra and George Huba used the IPI and found that daydreamers' imaginary images vary in three ways: how vivid or enjoyable the daydreams are, how many guilt- or fear-filled daydreams they have, and how "deeply" into the daydream people go.
Eric Klinger's research in the 1980s showed that most daydreams are about ordinary, everyday events and help to remind us of mundane tasks. Klinger's research also showed that over 3/4 of workers in 'boring jobs,' such as lifeguards and truck drivers, use vivid daydreams to "ease the boredom" of their routine tasks. Klinger found that less than five percent of the workers' daydreams involved explicitly sexual thoughts and that violent daydreams were also uncommon.
Israeli high school students who scored high on the Daydreaming Scale of the IPI had more empathy than students who scored low. Some psychologists, such as Los Angeles’ Joseph E. Shorr, use the mental imagery created during their clients' daydreaming to help gain insight into their mental state and make diagnoses.