People spend nearly half of their waking hours not thinking about what they are actually doing, according to a US study.
So does this show that humans daydream too much – or is it just another example of scientists with a bit too much time on their hands?
This research study is perhaps a little different as it was carried out via the iPhone. So the results tell us plenty about people who own one, but whether they are actually typical of the general population might just be a different argument.
Participants downloaded an app which contacted them at random times. They responded by selecting what they were doing from a menu, whether they were actually thinking about it and how happy or sad they felt.
250,000 survey results were collected from over 2,000 volunteers. The Harvard team concluded that this group of people spent 46.9% of their time with their minds wandering. People who were most distracted away from the task in hand were more likely to report feelings of unhappiness.
So it would seem that daydreaming makes us sad. Or is it simply that when we are feeling sad we are more likely to daydream?
Reports of happiness were most common among those exercising, having a conversation or making love. Yes, that means that some people actually did stop during sex to answer their iPhone!
Professor Nilli Lavie, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, commented, “Mind-wandering may simply be ubiquitous in the type of person who is engaging in this type of iPhone application, and who is prepared to be distracted from whatever they are doing in this way.”
The study is continuing, with more than 5,000 people now signed up. The researchers are keen to attract participants from around the globe to see if there are any geographical variations in the results.
So if you fancy taking part and have an iPhone, you can sign up at https://www.trackyourhappiness.org/