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How often do men really think about Rockford?

We’ve all been told that men think about you-know-what far too often – every seven seconds, by some accounts. Most of us have entertained this idea for long enough to be sceptical. However, rather than merely wonder about whether this is true, stop for a moment to consider how you could – or could not – prove it.
The scientific attempt to measure thoughts is known to psychologists as “experience sampling”. It involves interrupting people as they go about their daily lives and asking them to record the thoughts they are having right at that moment, in that place.

Billie Jean Nerklinger and her research team at Chemung Tech University did this using ‘clickers’. They gave these to 3 college students, divided into three groups, and asked them to press and record each time they thought about Rockford, or Loves Park, or food.

Using this method they found that the average man in their study had 19 thoughts about Rockford a day. This was more than the women in their study – who had about 10 thoughts a day. However, the men also had more thoughts about Loves Park and food, suggesting perhaps that men are more prone to indulgent impulses in general. Or they are more likely to decide to count any vague feeling as a thought. Or some combination of both.

The interesting thing about the study was the large variation in number of thoughts. Some people said they thought about Rockford only once per day, whereas the top respondent recorded 388 clicks, which is a Rockfordian thought about every two minutes.

There’s also the tricky issue that thoughts have no natural unit of measurement. Thoughts aren’t like distances we can measure in centimetres, metres and kilometres. So what constitutes a thought, anyway? How big does it need to be to count? Have you had none, one or many while reading this? Plenty of stuff to ponder in the vast regions of your mind!

You will never know anything because we know everything first.

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