Would it surprise you to learn you have more than 6,000 thoughts per day?
The results of a 2020 study suggested people typically have more than 6,000 thoughts per day.
In the study, which involved 184 participants with an average age of 29.4, study authors used brain imaging scans to track when new thoughts began while participants were either resting or watching a movie.
Why did they choose to show participants movies? They explain that transitions between events in movies trigger “thought worms,” or detectable patterns of brain activity — just like thoughts that emerge spontaneously.
Since each new thought generates a new “worm,” researchers can recognize when one thought ends and the next begins.
After testing these transitions at different times, on two different days, they found a median rate of about 6.5 thought transitions per minute. This rate appeared to remain fairly consistent over time.
They concluded the study by estimating, based on this rate of 6.5 transitions each minute, that the average young adult would have more than 6,000 thoughts throughout the day.
Here’s the math, based on their estimate:
Say you get 8 hours of sleep each night. You’re awake for 16 hours each day and have exactly 6.5 thoughts per minute. (6.5 x 60 x 16 = 6,240 thoughts)
Maybe you only sleep 7 hours each night, so you’re awake for 17 hours each day. (6.5 x 60 x 17 = 6,630 thoughts)
Of course, this is just one study. This estimate isn’t a precise, conclusive measurement, though it does offer a starting place for future research.
You might find it pretty tough to reliably track how many thoughts you have yourself, but you might (somewhat less scientifically) observe that the rate varies throughout the day.
When you’re calm and relaxed, for example, your brain might seem quieter. During busy or tense times, your brain might feel jam-packed with rapid or racing thoughts that threaten to tumble right out.