People day-dream 50pc of the time -- except when in bed
Published 12/11/2010 | 05:00
People spend nearly half their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing, a study revealed yesterday.
Researchers at Harvard University found that people's minds wander on average 46.9pc of the time, when they think about things that aren't going on around them.
Participants in the survey, which analysed behaviour recorded on an iPhone web app, said they were distracted no less than 30pc of the time during every activity, except making love, when they were more focused than usual.
The research, published in the American journal 'Science', also showed that mind wandering typically made people unhappy.
People were at their happiest when exercising or engaging in conversation, but least happy when resting, working or using a home computer.
Psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, the authors of the study, found that the 2,250 volunteers spent time thinking about past, future and hypothetical events while going about their lives.
"Mind-wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities," said Mr Killingsworth, a doctoral student at Harvard. "This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present."
The participants, aged between 18 and 88, were asked to select one of 22 general activities and record how happy they were while doing it, as well as whether they were thinking about their current activity or something else. "A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost," Mr Killingsworth added.
The app, accessible via Twitter, email or mobile phone, can be downloaded for free at www.trackyourhappiness.org.