How many thoughts does the ‘average’ person have per day?

Thinking about small by Freddie Alequin, on FlickrThinking is so underrated. Einstein didn’t need any experiments to come up with the Theory of Relativity – he just used his mind. Think about it: every invention or creation in all of history has come from someone’s ruminations. Just ponder that for a moment. Finished? Good, well that’s another thought you need to add to today’s tally. How many thoughts have you had now? Wow – that many already?! Yes, you’d better add that one to the list as well…

If you believe the stats that you read online (not always sensible), then you will discover that that every day you have about 50,000 thoughts. Which works out at about one thought every 1.7 seconds. Look a little further, though, and you’ll find out that some people are saying that we have 75,000 thoughts per day, while others suggest 100,000. Which is the real number? None of them. All of the stats are dreamt up and don’t appear to be based on any proper research. The popular 50,000 thoughts per day claim, is apparently based on research performed by the National Science Foundation. Except that the research doesn’t exist. (The NSF are a funding organisation and don’t do research themselves.)

Put simply, we don’t know how many thoughts we have per day. There are many problems with trying to give an exact number. For example, how do you know when a thought begins and ends? How do you record thoughts without ‘thinking’ about each one? And what is a ‘thought’ anyway? Your thought-life is probably better considered as a ‘stream of consciousness’ rather than lots of individual thoughts.

It all gets frightfully complicated and quite philosophical.

Right, well that’s definitely enough thinking for one day.

Question sent via Facebook

Answer by Dr Stu

Image source: Flickr Creative Commons

Article by Stuart Farrimond

April 2, 2014

Doctor Stu is editor of Guru Magazine. He originally trained as a medical doctor before deciding to branch out into lecturing, writing, editing and science communication. He drinks far too much coffee, eats lots of ice cream and has a bizarre love of keeping fit.
You can check out Doctor Stu’s blog at realdoctorstu.com or his poncy personal website stuartfarrimond.com. Here's his .


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2 thoughts on “How many thoughts does the ‘average’ person have per day?”

  1. It’s not a thought every 17 seconds, it’s 1.7 seconds, you forgot the decimal point. May also be noted that the brain slows during sleep so thoughts during daytime are likely faster than 1.7.

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