Put the devices aside, let your mind wander

Summary: Instead of spending your spare time browsing social media or staring at your cell phone, researchers suggest taking some time to just sit and think. Spending time alone with your thoughts can help solve problems, boost creativity, and improve your overall well-being.

source: APA

People constantly underestimate how much they enjoy spending time alone with their own thoughts, without anything to distract them, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Humans have an amazing ability to immerse themselves in their thinking,” said study lead author Aya Hatano, who received a PhD from Kyoto University in Japan.

“Our research indicates that individuals find it difficult to estimate how engaged thinking is. This could explain why people prefer to keep themselves occupied with devices and other distractions, rather than taking a moment to reflect and imagine in everyday life.”

The search was published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

In a series of six experiments with a total of 259 participants, researchers compared people’s expectations of how much they enjoyed simply sitting and thinking with their actual experience of doing so.

In the first experiment, they asked people to predict how much they enjoyed sitting alone with their thoughts for 20 minutes, without letting them do anything distracting like reading, walking around, or looking at a smartphone. Then, the participants reported how much they enjoyed it.

The researchers found that people enjoyed spending time with their thoughts significantly more than they expected.

This was true across various forms of the experiment where participants sat in a bare meeting room or in a small, dark tent area without visual stimulation; Variations in which the thought period lasted for three minutes or for 20 minutes; One difference is that the researchers asked people to report their enjoyment halfway through the task rather than after it had finished. In each case, the participants enjoyed the thinking more than they expected.

In another experiment, researchers compared one group of participants’ expectations about how much they enjoyed thinking with another group’s expectations about how much they enjoyed checking out news online.

Again, researchers found that people reduced their enjoyment of thinking. The thinking group expected to enjoy the task significantly less than the news-checking group, but then, both groups reported similar levels of enjoyment.

These findings are especially important in our modern age of increased information and constant access to distractions, according to study co-author Ko Murayama, PhD, of the University of Tübingen in Germany.

This shows a woman sitting on top of a hill and looking at the sunset
This missed opportunity comes at a cost because previous studies have shown that taking time to let your mind wander has some benefits, according to the researchers. The image is in the public domain

“Now it’s so easy to ‘kill time.’ On the bus on your way to work, you can check your phone instead of indulging in your free inner thinking, because you expect thinking will be boring,” he said.

“However, if this prediction is inaccurate, you miss an opportunity to interact positively with yourself without relying on such a stimulus.”

This missed opportunity comes at a cost because previous studies have shown that taking time to let your mind wander has some benefits, according to the researchers. It can help people solve problems, boost their creativity and even help them find meaning in life.

“By actively avoiding thinking activities, people may miss out on these important benefits,” Murayama said.

It is important to note that participants did not rank thinking as a very enjoyable task, but simply more enjoyable than they thought, according to Murayama. On average, the participants’ level of enjoyment was around 3 to 4 on a 7-point scale.

Future research should delve into the types of thinking that are most enjoyable and stimulating, according to Murayama. “Not all thinking is intrinsically rewarding, and in fact some people are prone to vicious cycles of negative thinking,” he said.

Future research should also explore the reasons why people underestimate how much they enjoy thinking, according to the researchers. The results should also be replicated in more diverse populations than the current study, as all participants were university students in Japan or the United Kingdom.

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About this research psychology news

author: Leah Weinerman
source: APA
Contact: Leah Weinerman – Apa
picture: The image is in the public domain

original search: open access.
Thinking Thinking: People Underestimate How Fun And Attractive Just WaitingBy Ko Murayama et al. Journal of Experimental Psychology


Thinking Thinking: People Underestimate How Fun And Attractive Just Waiting

The ability to engage in internal thoughts without external stimulation is a unique characteristic of humans. The current research tested the hypothesis that metacognitive people reduce their ability to enjoy the process of “just thinking.”

Participants (university students, total number = 259) were asked to sit and wait in a quiet room without doing anything.

Through six experiments, we consistently found that the expected pleasure and engagement of participants in the waiting task was significantly lower than what they actually experienced.

This underestimation of fair thinking also resulted in participants proactively avoiding the waiting task in favor of an alternative task (i.e. checking Internet news), although their experiences were not statistically different.

These findings suggest an inherent difficulty in accurately estimating the extent to which we engage in fair thinking, and could explain why people prefer to keep themselves occupied, rather than spend time thinking and imagining in our daily lives.